Merger should be re­jected

The Republican Herald - - OPINION -

There are many fine rea­sons for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to act against the im­pend­ing $85 bil­lion merger of AT&T and Time Warner. It would fur­ther tighten cor­po­rate con­trol of in­ter­net, ca­ble and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions at a time when less con­sol­i­da­tion is needed to en­sure di­ver­sity and ac­cess.

In­stead, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion DOJ plans to use the merger as a weapon against one of the pres­i­dent’s least fa­vorite news or­ga­ni­za­tions — Time Warner’s CNN.

The DOJ has ad­vised the com­pa­nies that it would not sign off on the merger un­less they agree to di­vest the merged com­pany of CNN, which the pres­i­dent reg­u­larly con­demns as a sup­posed pur­veyor of what he calls “fake news.”

A DOJ source quoted by Politico later claimed that AT&T and Time Warner it­self had of­fered to shed CNN to di­min­ish an­titrust con­cerns about the merger. AT&T CEO Ran­dall Stephen­son is­sued a state­ment that he “never of­fered to sell CNN” and has “no in­ten­tion of do­ing so.”

Rather than at­tempt­ing to weaken CNN as a con­di­tion of the merger, the DOJ should move against it for the rea­sons cited by Trump him­self while cam­paign­ing in Get­tys­burg in 2016. The deal, he said, would put “too much con­cen­tra­tion of power in the hands of too few.”

In­deed, the deal in­cludes ele­ments of hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion, giv­ing the merged en­tity huge in­flu­ence over pro­gram­ming on one end, pref­er­en­tial ac­cess for in-house prop­er­ties such as HBO, and vastly ex­panded its con­trol over the means of de­liv­er­ing that pro­gram­ming on the other end.

Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite Trump’s rhetoric on the stump, he has not held to that view as pres­i­dent. His FCC ap­pointees, for ex­am­ple, have changed a rule that will al­low deeply con­ser­va­tive Sin­clair Broad­cast­ing — the new owner of WNEP-TV — to reach up to 72 per­cent of U.S. house­holds.

The DOJ should for­get about CNN and re­ject the merger to pre­vent fur­ther con­sol­i­da­tion of me­dia power.

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