Justice, AT&T commerce accusations over CNN sale – tech2.org

Justice, AT&T commerce accusations over CNN sale

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) and AT&T traded accusations on Wednesday over whether or not the corporate must unload CNN, the cable community ceaselessly feuding with President Trump, as a situation of its merger with Time Warner.

Sources on the Justice Department instructed The Hill and different information retailers that antitrust officers had rejected a suggestion from AT&T on Monday to divest in CNN with a purpose to win approval for the $85 billion deal.

The sources, who spoke on the situation of anonymity, mentioned that the supply didn’t alleviate their considerations that the deal may probably hurt the general public by giving the brand new firm an excessive amount of energy to ship solely the content material it produces by means of AT&T’s networks.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, nonetheless, flatly denied that his firm had ever entertained the thought of promoting CNN to win approval of the deal.

“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight,” mentioned Stephenson, referring to the nameless quotations from Justice sources.

“Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”

It is extremely uncommon for particulars of such presents to emerge in public, and the startling back-and-forth between Stephenson and the Justice Department will increase new questions on whether or not the deal could be consummated.

It was additionally inconceivable to not contemplate Trump’s ongoing feud with CNN, which is run by a former NBC govt who labored with Trump on “The Apprentice.”

The president ceaselessly rips CNN as “fake news,” and earlier this yr tweeted out a video from his 2007 “WrestleMania” look that was edited to point out Trump beating up somebody with the CNN brand imposed on their head.

On the marketing campaign path final yr, Trump vowed to dam the deal, however since he took workplace, most observers predicted that the $85 billion transaction would sail by means of the regulatory evaluate.

Before Stephenson’s public feedback, The New York Times reported that Justice had instructed AT&T and Time Warner to both unload CNN’s father or mother firm, Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV as a situation of approving their proposed merger. AT&T purchased DirecTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion.

The Hill’s sources mentioned that AT&T solely provided to unload CNN, and never Turner.

The Financial Times was the primary to report that Justice had requested Time Warner to spin off CNN.

“It’s all about CNN,” a supply instructed The Financial Times.

The Wall Street Journal reported final week that the Justice Department was weighing a lawsuit to dam the deal.

Some Democrats had been fast to grab on the newest studies as proof of political interference by the White House.

“Presidential power must be used wisely and fairly. I don’t know the details here but this is worth investigating,” Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Energy: Dems grill Trump NASA decide | House pbades wildfire reform invoice | Court rejects Sierra Club lawsuits on pure fuel Dems tear into Trump’s NASA nominee Overnight Defense: Mattis says authority for North Korea motion restricted to ‘imminent’ threats | Corker vows to take up new struggle measure quickly | CBO places .2T price ticket on updating nuclear triad MORE (D-Hawaii) wrote in a tweet.

“The burden of proof is on the Justice Department to establish that there is no political interference in their Antitrust Division,” he added.

Democrats may have an opportunity to grill Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz’s former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we realized from Carter Page’s House Intel testimony | House to mark up overseas intel reform legislation | FBI cannot entry Texas shooter’s cellphone | Sessions to testify at listening to amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s cellphone MORE on the subject when he testifies earlier than the House Judiciary Committee subsequent week.

The information comes on the identical day that one among AT&T’s high executives advised that the deal has hit some roadblocks. The firm has been saying for months that the merger is anticipated to shut by the top of the yr, however now John Stephens, AT&T’s chief monetary officer, says that it’s unclear when the 2 corporations will get the inexperienced mild from regulators.

“I can’t comment on those discussions, but with those discussions, I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain,” Stephens mentioned at a convention in New York Tuesday, in response to The Wall Street Journal.

Stephens emphasised “vertical merger like this hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years.”

There had been few indicators of hbadle for the merger till July of this yr, when The New York Times, citing an administration official, reported that the White House was exploring use the deal as leverage over CNN.

The report touched off criticism from Democrats, who’re vehemently against the deal however are cautious of any White House interference in Justice Department proceedings.

“Although I have raised serious questions about the impact of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner, Inc., the transaction should be judged solely on its impact on competition, innovation, and consumers, not as ‘leverage’ for political gain,” Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenators push necessary badual harbadment coaching for members, workers CNN to air badual harbadment Town Hall that includes Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill Former Hill workers requires necessary harbadment coaching MORE (D-Minn.), the highest antitrust Democrat, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the summer season.

Critics of the deal fear that AT&T’s management over programming would enable the mixed firm to offer its personal content material favorable therapy, hurting competing networks. They additionally argue that the merger may result in shoppers paying larger costs for sure content material.

In June, a gaggle of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenOvernight Tech: Senate panel subpoenaed ex-Yahoo chief | Twitter offers all customers 280 characters | FBI cannot entry Texas shooter’s cellphone | EU needs tax solutions from Apple Week forward: DHS nominee heads earlier than Senate | Ex-Yahoo chief to testify on hack | Senators dig into election safety Feinstein: Sessions ought to re-testify on Russia conferences MORE (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Sessions criticizing the deal. In that letter, Democrats warned of potential issues of the merged firm proudly owning CNN and argued that no circumstances could be enough to cut back the deal’s potential hurt.

“Allowing one giant company like a combined AT&T-Time Warner to control the content available to Americans would threaten the basic principles of our democracy, especially given Time Warner’s ownership of key information sources like CNN,” the Democrats wrote.

“With both the incentive and the ability to direct consumers to Time Warner-owned content, AT&T-Time Warner could restrict its subscribers’ access to alternative viewpoints, such as those offered by competing news outlets like Fox, MSNBC, or Breitbart.”

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