Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

U.S. anxious AT&T and Time Warner would hike costs for media rivals

U.S. anxious AT&T and Time Warner would hike costs for media rivals

USA antitrust regulators and AT&T Inc sparred on Wednesday over whether the wireless carrier would be required to sell Time Warner Inc's CNN cable network as a condition of approval of its deal to buy the media company.

According to some news reports, the Justice Department told AT&T it must sell CNN's parent unit or DirecTV, its pay-TV company, for the deal to go through.

Stephens told the audience at a Wells Fargo investor conference that AT&T was now "uncertain" about when the deal would close, whereas previously the company had reiterated beliefs that the deal would be officially done before the year's end. In June, 11 Democratic senators signed a letter urging the Justice Department to reject the deal if it could prove that a merger would hurt competition and consumers. The dispute is the latest twist in a deal which took on broader political significance immediately after its inception in October 2016. Since he took office during January, Trump has not made any further comment about the deal.

The White House has said that Trump "did not speak with the attorney general about this matter" and that "no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter". Opponents are pushing for conditions that would limit AT&T's ability to charge media rivals higher prices to carry Time Warner content. Both companies have struggled to keep younger viewers from flocking to online services like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc's Prime Video.

Makan Delrahim the antitrust division head of the DOJ said the White House never instructed the agency on this matter or any other under review by my division.

But Trump's strongly voiced disdain for CNN has raised the spectre of political influence behind the scenes. Shortly after the first one, Mr. Trump lashed out at CNN on Twitter, saying of the news network that "their credibility will soon be gone!" It also quoted a third source, who said the DOJ had requested the sale of CNN.

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But AT&T is also getting ready for a possible court battle, he said.

"We are in active discussions with the (Justice Department)".

AT&T executives have consistently expressed optimism about the deal being approved.

"While there are plenty of good reasons to oppose AT&T's Time Warner takeover, punishing CNN for trying to hold this administration accountable isn't one of them", Aaron said in a statement.

Jesse Lee, a spokesman for Protect Democracy, a watchdog group founded after Trump's election, says that previous administrations since the Watergate era have upheld strict contacts policy rules forbidding political influence from the executive branch over federal agencies tasked with enforcing USA laws for political purposes.

Another sticking point in discussions is the length of time that the United States of America government wants to impose conditions on what AT&T can and cannot do after a deal.

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