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Paperwork sinks sale of Telesat

Red tape apparently has helped preserve the county's competitive cable market by prompting CableVision of Central Florida to withdraw its offer to buy Telesat Cablevision Inc.

Officials at Time Warner Cable, CableVision's parent company, said Monday that they had called off a deal with Telesat, citing "burdensome" paperwork required by the Federal Trade Commission to approve the sale.

"The deal is off," Mike Luftman, vice president of corporate communications for Time Warner, said of the $13.2-million bid to buy Telesat.

"As a result of what we consider to be burdensome, time-consuming and never-ending requests from the Federal Trade Commission for additional documentation, we determined it was no longer a fruitful use of our resources to go forward with the deal," he said.

Telesat officials did not return phone calls Monday.

CableVision has been awaiting federal approval of its offer to buy Telesat since it announced the deal in December 1992. Luftman said the company had satisfied repeated requests for paperwork from the federal government, which was looking to see whether the sale would create a monopoly.

The company decided last week, however, that approval was not forthcoming. "We detected implicitly that they wished to throw roadblocks in the way of these kinds of acquisitions simply by continuing to ask for more and more information," Luftman said.

CableVision, with about 20,000 subscribers, competes head to head in Telesat's service area, about 8,000 customers predominantly in Inverness and Beverly Hills.

Bonnie Jansen, a spokeswoman for the FTC, said she was prohibited by law to comment on the specific allegations raised by CableVision. But she did say that, in general, the guidelines for applying for a buyout or merger are clear.

"The FTC has a very streamlined process to try to help companies comply with the law," she said. "We require only as much information as is necessary to do an antitrust analysis."

Luftman said his company was disappointed with its experience with the FTC, and said the ultimate losers are consumers.

"We think that our CableVision of Central Florida is extremely well run and provides very good customer service," Luftman said. "Telesat customers, as part of becoming part of CableVision customers, would have received better service and better programing."

But cable subscribers and county officials, who feared federal approval would pave the way for a monopoly, greeted news of the announcement with relief.

"It's good news for us," said county attorney Larry Haag. "We've opposed the sale all along due to the fact it would create a monopoly."

Bob Traugott, who spearheaded a grassroots effort to kill the deal, said he expected another buyer to snap up Telesat and continue competition.

"It's a growing market," Traugott said. "I just have a feeling other companies are going to come in and do what Telesat was supposed to do."

When the county granted Telesat its franchise in 1987, the company promised to wire the entire county to receive its programing, but never did so.