WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - A majority of the five-member Federal Trade Commission is now prepared to vote to approve America Online Inc.'s <AOL.N> proposed takeover of Time Warner Inc. <TX.N>, the Washington Post reported in Monday editions, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
The Post said a formal vote was expected Thursday on the $183 billion deal, which would create a vast media and Internet company that some consumer groups and competitors fear would dominate the Internet and limit consumer choice.
Some opponents have meetings scheduled with FTC commissioners this week in hopes of persuading them to block the deal in court, the Post said.
But after months of wrenching negotiations with Dulles-based AOL and Time Warner, three -- and possibly four -- members of the five-member FTC now believe that the settlement agreement on the table is the best deal they can get from the parties, the Post quoted its sources as saying.
European regulators have already given their blessing to the deal, which was announced in January. It must also be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission, and FCC commissioners expressed optimism Friday that they can move quickly to finish work after FTC action.
AOL has negotiated a deal with EarthLink Inc. <ELNK.O> , the largest U.S. Internet service provider after AOL, in an effort to prove its willingness to open the cable systems.
The Post said Commissioner Orson Swindle, a former Reagan administration official, FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky, and Commissioner Thomas Leary were expected to approve the deal.
The paper said it was less clear where Commissioner Sheila Anthony stood on the merger. Commissioner Mozelle Thompson, a former Treasury Department official, has been the most outspoken in his concerns about the merger, it added.