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Sen. Collins Warns of Anticompetitive Potential of AT&T-Time Warner

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who famously has issues with the Republican healthcare bill, also has some issues with the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

According to a letter to acting assistant attorney general Andrew Finch, a copy of which was obtained by B&C, Collins says she thinks the merger could have a "significant, negative impact on competition and innovation." 

Collins did not come out against the deal but did say that DOJ needed to look carefully at its "potential impact on consumers and competition."

She said the merger could "create an opportunity" for AT&T to "favor HBO in marketing and packaging of premium content to its customers, discriminating against competitors."

She said there is a real risk that the deal could "dramatically reduce consumer choice" in favor of AT&T's new "in-house brand." 

She also said it could allow AT&T, which also owns DirecTV, to raise content costs to competitors like Dish, which would pass them along to her constituents. "Ultimately, consumers would lose," she said.

There was no letter to the FCC because it is not vetting the merger on public interest grounds. DOJ's antitrust review is the sole federal review—there are various state reviews—because the deal does not involve any license transfers after AT&T and Time Warner structured it so no licenses—some satellite licenses and one TV station license—were in play.

(Photo via Medill DC's FlickrImage taken on June 27, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

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.