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Deal Critics Celebrate DOJ Suit Against AT&T-Time Warner

Deal watchers were quick to weigh in on the Department of Justice's decision to file suit against the merger of AT&T-Time Warner, particularly foes of he meld.

Consolidation critics were pleased with the DOJ move, despite suggestions that the President's dislike of CNN reporting and his announced intention that his administration would try and block the deal, affected DOJ's decision.

They saw plenty of reason to oppose the merger that did not have to do with politics.

“Writers Guild of America West welcomes action by the U.S. Department of Justice to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner," said the union. "As we have stated since this deal was first proposed, the size, scope and potential harm to both consumers and content creators provide ample reason to block the merger on its merits. The proposed combination of must-have content with vast control over distribution would give the company broad power to undermine competition, restrict access to programming and raise prices. This merger would result in a media behemoth even larger than the failed Comcast-Time Warner Cable venture, and should be stopped. With reports surfacing each week of other possible media mergers, blocking this deal has only become more critical.”

Public Knowledge was also celebrating.

"We welcome this effort by the Department of Justice to protect competition in the video industry. Ever since this deal was announced, we sounded the alarm on the dangers it could pose to consumers, and it is gratifying to see antitrust enforcers respond."

Public Knowledge tacitly recognized the concerns about presidential meddling, but remained focused on the ends.

“Although there is some controversy over the political environment surrounding the transaction, media consolidation in general and this transaction in particular is not in the interest of the American public. The Department of Justice has drawn a line in the sand against this violation of the Clayton Act, and we believe the courts will side with the government by preventing further media consolidation that drives up prices for consumers and undermines the competitive marketplace of ideas."

"On its face the AT&T-Time Warner merger clearly violates antitrust law and President Trump’s railing against CNN should not have played any role in the Justice Department’s decision to bring suit," said Common Cause. "We have always maintained that vertical mergers of content and carriage violate well-established and pro-consumer antitrust principles."

Perhaps, but AT&T has pointed out that no court has blocked a vertical merger in almost 50 years.

Common Cause said it hoped politics had not driven the decision to block, but also focused on the result.

"Blessing AT&T’s monopolistic bid to acquire Time Warner would harm consumers and the public interest," said the group.

"As with any antitrust proceeding, the facts matter and there are ample grounds for DOJ to cite in its opposition. We continue to support challenging this proposed merger for reasons of law - and we hope the DOJ relied exclusively on the law as the basis for its action, as opposed to political score settling."

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.