DOJ sues AT&T bid to buy Time Warner (including CNN)

Getty  Alex Wong

Getty Alex Wong

The Department of Justice is suing to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, legally challenging a $85 billion deal that would give the telecom giant control of a media empire including CNN, Warner Brothers, HBO, and other major media brands.

"Our merger combines Time Warner's content and talent with AT&T's TV, wireless and broadband distribution platforms".

Earlier this month, reports circulated that the government had demanded AT&T sell Turner Broadcasting, operator of the CNN news network, or DirectTV as a condition of approval, though the government pushed back at those reports.

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The US Department of Justice will reportedly file an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T with regards to its proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

The DOJ's case against the merger suggests that together, the companies would control so much of both what people watch and how they watch it, that they could push both competitors and consumers to pay more.

"Today's DOJ lawsuit is a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent", said David McAtee II, senior executive vice president and general counsel at AT&T, in a statement. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently.

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AT&T's stock slid on the news but still traded 0.4% higher on Monday afternoon, while Time Warner shares slipped 1.1% for the day. Now, CNBC has reported that the DOJ has issued the suit today.

Although DOJ officials briefed on the matter said the White House was not involved in the decision or even told about the lawsuit ahead of time, critics are likely to raise questions about the possibility of political interference on the part of President Trump.

AT&T plans to fight for the merger in court. The Justice Department and the White House have denied that this is an effort to punish CNN for coverage Donald Trump has hated.

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"This merger would greatly harm American consumers", said Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, said in a statement.

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