Markey Joins Franken Coalition of Senators in Pressuring Justice Department to Reject AT&T-Time Warner Merger if Harms to Consumers Outweigh Benefits
Senators Fear Massive $85 Billion Media Deal Would Lead to Higher Bills, Fewer Choices, Poorer Quality Service
WASHINGTON, DC [06/21/17]—Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) led a group of 11 Senate Democrats in pressuring the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reject AT&T’s massive $85 billion bid to acquire Time Warner if it determines that the significant harms to American consumers arising from the deal outweigh any alleged benefits.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senators made the case that allowing this proposed merger to move forward—in what would be yet another instance of consolidation in the already highly concentrated pay-TV and media industries—will result in higher TV and internet prices, fewer choices, and worse service. The group also argued that if federal regulators put strict “conditions” on the deal as a compromise, they would be insufficient in addressing all the ways the mega media conglomerate could restrict access to diverse television programming and premium channels like HBO, raise monthly bills for consumers, and violate the principles of net neutrality.
“While we cannot possibly predict all the harms that could arise from this deal, we maintain that AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner would result in higher prices, fewer choices, and worse service for consumers,” the Senators wrote. “We hope you'll take a stand for U.S. consumers and businesses and closely scrutinize the transaction. Should you determine that the substantial harms arising from the transaction outweigh the purported benefits, we urge you to reject it.”
In addition to Sen. Franken, today’s letter to the attorney general was signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
AT&T is the second largest mobile broadband provider and one of the nation’s leading content distributors after having purchased DIRECTV just two years ago. Time Warner is one of the world’s largest TV and entertainment companies, owning networks such as HBO and CNN. By combining, these two companies would create a media conglomerate with the incentive and ability to harm competitors and ultimately consumers.
Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, has long fought against consolidation in the media market, which he says concentrates too much power in the hands of too few companies. One of his priorities as a champion for consumers is to help the tens of millions of people in Minnesota and across the country who are being squeezed by TV and internet costs. He successfully led the effort to block a deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable and was a vocal opponent of the prior Comcast–NBC Universal deal.
You can read the full text of today’s letter by clicking here.