More than a dozen media consolidation critics, including Common Cause, Consumers Union and the Writers Guild of America West, have told U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, from all appearances, the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger cannot pass muster by "conditions and piecemeal divestitures" and should be blocked.
The Department of Justice is the only authority vetting the deal, which was structured to avoid the license transfers that would have triggered FCC review on public interest grounds.
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"Because this merger poses such grave dangers to consumers and creators in mature and emerging markets, we urge the Department to investigate the merger thoroughly, and take whatever action is warranted, based on the evidence uncovered in your investigation, to prevent harm to competition and consumers," the group wrote. "And if you conclude, as appears to us from the available information, that conditions and piecemeal divestitures will not be sufficient, then we hope you will challenge the merger in its entirety."
The groups talked about the ability and incentive of the combined company to harm competition.
"Buying Time Warner would incentivize and enable AT&T to cement its dominance and benefit itself, at the expense of pro-consumer competition in the video distribution market, by raising the cost of Time Warner programming to its rivals," they said. "It would also incentivize and enable AT&T to put onerous restrictions on programming availability, such as device or windowing restrictions, which are another way of raising the costs of its rivals."
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Also signing on to the letter were Public Knowledge, Alliance for Community Media, Media Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Consumer Action, Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative), Consumer Federation of America, Open Technology Institute at New America, Courage Campaign, The Utility Reform Network and Free Press.
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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.