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AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner hits a major obstacle

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It looks like the US Department of Justice has some major issues with the mega-acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T.

Multiple media have received leaks from discussions between AT&T and the DoJ, but the FT seems to have got its story out first. It reports the DoJ has demanded the disposal of Turner Broadcasting, which runs the CNN news channel, as a condition of approving the deal. AT&T isn’t happy with that condition, continues the report, and is even prepared to take the DoJ to court over it.

The New York Times, however, has another take on that discussion. According to its sources in the DoJ it was AT&T that offered to flog Turner and the DoJ rejected it. This prompted AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to make a public statement that he had never made such an offer. Meanwhile Light Reading reports that AT&T CFO John Stephens recently acknowledged that the DoJ is the final hurdle for the deal and that the process is dragging on more than they’d hoped.

Another insinuation made by all these reports is that CNN might be a sticking point because US President Trump feels hostile towards the news channel, as he does towards most media or indeed any source of dissent. The speculation is that he would like to make sure CNN is owned by someone more sympathetic to his agenda such as, perhaps, the owner of Fox.

Since everyone else seems to have given the deal the green light it’s easy to see how the US government might be tempted to use its position to create some influence for itself over one of the country’s biggest media companies. But M&A law should be above ephemeral political whims and if this does turn out to be the case Trump will seriously undermine his pro-wealth generation, small government claims.

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