DOJ sues to block AT&T-Time Warner merger

Andrew Cummings
November 21, 2017

A suit to block the merger suggests the combination of the largest USA pay-TV provider and No. 2 wireless carrier with a media company that includes Turner Broadcasting (CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies and TruTV), HBO, and Warner Bros. film studio was seen by the DOJ as too much connectivity and content under AT&T's umbrella.

The president has been highly critical of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, and White House officials have reportedly discussed the merger as a way to obtain leverage over the network.

AT&T and Time Warner announced their $85 billion merger previous year but the closing has been dragged out by the government's anti-trust review.

The DOJ's decision to oppose the media merger adds fuel to speculation that the Trump administration is meddling in Justice Department decisions in an attempt to enact retribution against CNN.

AT&T is "confident that the Court will reject the Government's claims and permit this merger under longstanding legal precedent".

"Were this merger allowed to proceed, the newly combined firm likely would - just as AT&T/DirecTV has already predicted - use its control of Time Warner's popular programming as a weapon to harm competition", states the DOJ complaint filed in the case.

The deal is opposed by an array of consumer groups and smaller television networks on the grounds that it would give AT&T too much power over the content it would distribute to its wireless customers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to answer a question about the deal's review last week, citing a Justice Department policy of not revealing such conversations.

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