DOJ Tells AT&T You Can’t Have It Both Ways One Must Go


 
 
05:55 11/08/2017

The Justice Department has told AT&T Inc. T  and Time Warner to either sell off CNN's parent company or DirecTV as a condition of approving their proposed merger, The New York Times reported Wednesday.



According to the report, the Justice Department wants Time Warner Inc. TWX  to sell off all of Turner Broadcasting, a subsidiary that holds CNN and other networks, like TBS and TNT. As an alternative, the regulators also proposed that AT&T sell DirecTV, which it bought in 2015 for $48.5 billion.

The Justice Department wants Time Warner to spin off CNN. But AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that he was not entertaining the idea of selling CNN from the combined company. According to The New York Times, the Justice Department also proposed that AT&T sell off DirecTV as an alternative way to win approval for the deal.

There were few signs of trouble for the merger until July of this year, when The New York Times, cited an administration official, reported that the White House was exploring how to use the deal as leverage over CNN.

Critics of the deal worry that AT&T’s control over programming would allow the combined company to give its own content favorable treatment, hurting competing networks. They also argue that the merger could lead to consumers paying higher prices for certain content.



In June, a group of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticizing the deal. In that letter, Democrats warned of potential problems of the merged company owning CNN and argued that no conditions would be sufficient to reduce the deal’s potential harm.



"Allowing one giant company like a combined AT&T-Time Warner to control the content available to Americans would threaten the basic principles of our democracy, especially given Time Warner's ownership of key information sources like CNN," the Democrats wrote.


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