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Putting the ‘Fun’ in Fundamental Disagreement

WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers were eager to turn phrases in their brief in a creative effort to turn back AT&T’s effort to acquire Time Warner and its Turner programming assets.

The Cinderella Solution: DOJ said that AT&T-Time Warner’s arbitration offer “would turn into a pumpkin after seven years.” Translation: DOJ says the deal’s voluntary outside arbitration condition for complaints about access to Turner “must-have” programming [March Madness] is like Cinderella’s carriage, disappearing when the clock strikes year seven.

The Star Wars Defense: Justice says AT&T-Time Warner’s argument that the government’s case is out of context, “from a long time ago in a galaxy far away,” is a crock. “The government is challenging this merger to address the real concerns of real people who populate the real marketplace today.”

The Casablanca Comment: DOJ cited AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson’s press conference quote when the suit was filed, that, he was “surprised to be here,” but said that given that, for one, The New York Times had predicted it was likely to face tough scrutiny, Stephenson sounded “a bit like Captain Renault in the classic Warner Bros. film Casablanca.” That was a reference to the character who feigned surprise that there was gambling going on at Rick’s casino even as he pocketed his winnings.

John Eggerton
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.