A PYMNTS Company

US: Senator warns White House against using ‘political influence’ over AT&T-Time Warner merger

 |  July 9, 2017

The US$85 billion mega-merger between AT&T and Time Warner — the parent company of CNN — is widely expected to close by the end of the year, if not earlier, should it win government approval. But the question of whether it will be approved was raised this week, after the New York Times reported that the White House, which has an adversarial relationship with CNN, was considering using the deal as “leverage.”

Democratic senators reacted with dismay to the Times report and warned against any White House involvement in antitrust enforcement.

“Any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Even more concerning, in this instance, is that it appears that some advisers to the President may believe that it is appropriate for the government to use its law enforcement authority to alter or censor the press. Such an action would violate the First Amendment.”

Fellow Minnesotan Sen. Al Franken, who opposes the merger, echoed Klobuchar’s sentiment in his own statement: “The Trump Administration’s war against the media must not influence the fate of this transaction.”

That’s up to the FCC and the Justice Department. The FCC evaluates mergers on the basis of whether they’re in the public interest. In February, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the Wall Street Journal that his agency would likely not be reviewing the deal because no airwave licenses would be transferred. This was, according to the Journal, a development that investors had been watching for, since an FCC review is considered to to be broader than the antitrust review conducted by the Justice Department.

The AT&T-Time Warner merger is a vertical merger, meaning that the two companies are not direct competitors.

Full Content: Reuters

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.