Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Won't sell CNN to win Time Warner deal approval: AT&T

Won't sell CNN to win Time Warner deal approval: AT&T

Another option: selling DirecTV, the satellite broadcaster that AT&T bought two years ago.

Thursday's reports also touched off speculation that the Justice Department's insistence on a divestiture could have political overtones, after Trump's outspoken criticism of CNN's coverage of his administration. AT&T can deliver this video over the internet, including its cellular network.

Shares of Time Warner fell about 6 per cent to $89.00, while AT&T shares fell 0.2 per cent before climbing 1.16 per cent to $33.46.

The company has opposed divesting assets and has told the government it is willing to fight in court to win approval, sources said on Wednesday.

Several Democratic senators warned the deal would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

US antitrust regulators believe that AT&T Inc's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Inc would raise costs for rival entertainment distributors and stifle innovation, a Department of Justice official told Reuters on Thursday.

This time, the hosts were discussing the possible responses from the Department of Justice to the merger between AT&T and Time Warner and how it would impact CNN. The Justice Department would have to argue that AT&T would have an incentive to withhold Turner channels like CNN or its National Basketball Association on TNT from rival broadband distributors like Verizon or Comcast.

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The US was home to "the main companies that order and pay for television rights, the main sponsors and advertisers", he said. This was declared by presidential assistant Yuri Ushakov to Russian agencies.

The Justice Department is supposed to make merger reviews based exclusively on antitrust law. The discussion of a potential sale of CNN has politicized the situation. As a candidate, Trump vowed to block the deal because it concentrated too much "power in the hands of too few". Shortly after the first one, Mr. Trump lashed out at CNN on Twitter, saying of the news network that "their credibility will soon be gone!" In a statement, White House spokesman Raj Shah said: "The president did not speak with the attorney general about this matter, and no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".

When asked about concerns about Trump meddling in the deal review, Stephenson said "I have no reason to believe that".

But even the perception of White House involvement could influence the deal-review process.

He stressed that no government figure, either inside DOJ or, has been suggested, the White House official given President Trump's scorn for CNN, has put pressure on him to sell. "For me it would be virtually impossible to not take that into account".

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Stephenson was responding on a question on whether he would consider selling Turner or HBO. "I don't see how anyone can know right now whether this is Trump trying to punish CNN", Salop says. But most of those involved direct competitors.

Still, antitrust experts have said that on a strictly legal basis, fighting the deal might be hard for the DOJ.

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