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Merger Critics Take Aim at AT&T-Time Warner

Combining telecom giant AT&T with Time Warner and its content assets that stretch from CNN to the Harry Potter film franchise was bound to draw fire from media consolidation foes, and that was the case Sunday and Monday as details of the merger deal emerged.

Mike Copps, something of the elder statesman of consolidation critics, called the deal "unthinkable."

"The sorry history of mega mergers shows they run roughshod over the public interest," said Copps, now a special advisor to Common Cause and formerly FCC Democratic chairman and commissioner. "Further entrenching monopoly harms innovation and drives up prices for consumers. The answer is clear: regulators must say no."

Gene Kimmelman, who heads up Public Knowledge, said, “[W]e see many competition concerns related to preferencing their own services and content in ways that may harm consumers."

Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal said the deal would be "disastrous' for the public. "This takeover would result in a dangerous concentration of economic and political power that could lead to higher costs, curtail consumer choice, and potentially constrain speech and information access," he said.

The Parents Television Council said: "AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner will create an entertainment behemoth, and no doubt the corporate spin-masters will emphasize benefits to consumers. But if history is our guide, this merger should be of great concern to families."

PTC is a big fan of unbundling content as a way to let families avoid channels and shows PTC does not approve of. It urged regulators, if they do approve the deal, to "only give approval if the deal creates more unbundling options,” said PTC president Tim Winter Monday.

PTC pointed to the XM/Sirius merger condition about subs being able to opt out of explicit content and said a similar condition should apply to this deal if it is allowed.

Victor Pickard, author and professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said the deal would create "a media behemoth with dangerous concentrations of political and economic power."

"With one corporation controlling so much production and distribution of news and entertainment media, this vertical integration poses significant potential hazards for millions of consumers and could harm the health of our democratic discourse," Pickard said.

Pickard is concerned that the FCC will be able favor its owned content, like CNN and HBO, and Warner Bros. programming.