AT&T/TW Opening Arguments Delayed Until Thursday

AT&T and Time Warner will have to wait at least another day to begin the defense of their proposed merger in a D.C Court.

Judge Richard Leon rescheduled opening arguments from Wednesday (March 21) to Thursday due to the predicted snowstorm. He has also rejected a request by former Justice officials to make possible Presidential interference part of the trial.

DOJ v. AT&T/TW: Battle Lines Drawn

The Justice Department is suing to block the deal, arguing that without spin-offs or programming assets it violates antitrust laws, giving the combined company the incentive and opportunity to raise prices and reduce competition from competing distributors.

AT&T/TW have offered to accept baseball style arbitration of any program carriage disputes and say there is no reason to expect the company to withold programming, like HBO or college basketball or CNN, from the many distributors that pay for that programming, and whose payments comprise much of the value they are placing on the deal.

Leon has rejected a request by some former Justice Officials to reconsider his earlier decision not to force the White House and Justice Department to produce records of communications between the two as part of the case.

They were, and are, concerned the Trump Administration may have "interfered" in DOJ's vetting of the AT&T-Time Warner merger and say, if so, it was likely unconstitutional selective enforcement and a violation of the First Amendment.

Candidate Trump said his administration would block the deal if he were elected.

Then-candidate Donald Trump signaled he thought the merged company would be too big--Time Warner owns CNN, one of the news outlets Trump has accused of teaming up with Democrats to undermine him--and said his administration, if he were elected, would block the deal.

AT&T and Time Warner have already told the court they think it is selective enforcement.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.