Presidential Campaigns Blast AT&T-Time Warner Merger | KERA News

Presidential Campaigns Blast AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Oct 24, 2016
Originally published on October 25, 2016 5:44 am

AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is already raising eyebrows among an important constituency: politicians. Reaction to the deal, which was announced Saturday night, has been swift, and skeptical, from both sides of the aisle.

At a rally in Gettysburg, Pa., earlier Saturday, after news of the deal had started to trickle out, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said it was "a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

Trump also released a statement Sunday from campaign economic adviser Peter Navarro reading, in part:

"AT&T, the original and abusive 'Ma Bell' telephone monopoly, is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal because it concentrates too much power in the hands of the too and powerful few."

The concentration of resources and competition is a concern for Democrats, too. Appearing on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said "pro-competition and less concentration, I think, is generally helpful, especially in the media."

And former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted that the Obama administration should kill the merger: "This deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people."

Time Warner owns CNN, HBO and Warner Bros., and there is concern that giving AT&T, which now owns DirectTV, control over that content could put other program providers at a competitive disadvantage.

The proposed merger is sure to face regulatory hurdles, although it's not yet clear which agencies will be involved. The Department of Justice may review the proposal on antitrust grounds. The Federal Communications Commission may wish to look at the media consolidation angle. Neither agency has commented on the deal.

There are concerns already being expressed in Congress, too. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and the panel's top Democrat, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, issued a joint statement saying the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues, which the subcommittee would carefully examine."

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And AT&T's proposed purchase of Time Warner is already raising eyebrows among an important constituency - politicians. Reaction to the $85-billion deal announced Saturday has been swift and skeptical from across the political spectrum. NPR's Brian Naylor has more.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: As details of the proposed AT&T/Time Warner deal have emerged, political candidates and lawmakers of every stripe have reacted. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump stated his flat-out opposition.

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DONALD TRUMP: AT&T is buying Time Warner and, thus, CNN - a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

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NAYLOR: The Clinton campaign also raised concerns. On NBC's "Meet The Press," Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said there were tough questions to be answered.

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TIM KAINE: Generally, pro-competition and less concentration, I think, is generally helpful, especially in the media.

NAYLOR: And former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted the administration should kill the merger, saying the deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people. Others have also weighed in. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa said it's imperative that antitrust regulators conduct what he called a robust review of the proposed deal and said his panel will hold a hearing to examine the deal's impact on competition and consumers. The concern is this - the deal would give AT&T, which already owns Direct TV, control over a trove of content from Time Warner. That includes HBO, CNN and Warner Bros. movies. Todd O'Boyle of Common Cause, which advocates for consumers says that might lead to higher costs and fewer choices for viewers.

TODD O'BOYLE: That might take the form of not allowing other providers access to the Time Warner Entertainment that so many people love, be that "Game Of Thrones" or be that news on CNN. Or it may degrade or hinder the performance of other content on the AT&T network.

NAYLOR: It's not clear yet how many regulatory hurdles the deal will face. The Federal Communications Commission may weigh in. It will almost certainly be reviewed by the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department. Andrew Jay Schwartzman is with the Georgetown University law school.

ANDREW JAY SCHWARTZMAN: The career staff and the leadership of the Justice Department will analyze the transaction and make recommendations. In general, the attorney general himself or herself and the White House accept these recommendations. In theory, they can say, look, we really think this should come out the other way; can't you try to do that?

NAYLOR: Given the timing of the proposed deal, it's going to be the next administration that makes that decision. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.