For AT&T to win approval of its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, the company may be required to sell CNN and perhaps all of Turner Broadcasting.
The Financial Times reports the DOJ is demanding that AT&T sell CNN if it wants regulatory approval for its long-planned takeover of Time Warner.
The New York Times reports the DOJ is calling for AT&T to choose between the sale of DirecTV or all of Turner Broadcasting. CNN is a part of Turner, along with TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and others.
The sale of CNN “is just one of the demands being made by the US antitrust authority in order to sign off on the deal, those involved in the talks said. But it could prove a stumbling block,” FT writes.
The Times writes: “If the Justice Department formally makes either demand a requisite for approval, AT&T and Time Warner would almost certainly take the matter to court to challenge the government’s legal basis for blocking their deal.”
CNN had no comment on today’s developments.
When the deal was announced last October, at the height of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said if elected, it’s “a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
But The White House can’t control whether or not a merger comes to pass. That’s up to the FCC and DOJ, which is why Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to AG Jeff Sessions in July warning that, “any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable. Even more concerning, in this instance, is that it appears that some advisers to the President may believe that it is appropriate for the government to use its law enforcement authority to alter or censor the press.”
Klobuchar’s colleague, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, opposes the merger on its merits, but believes Trump’s desire to block it is politically motivated. “The Trump Administration’s war against the media must not influence the fate of this transaction,” Franken said over the summer.
This new bombshell comes a few hours after AT&T CFO John Stephens told an investor conference in New York, “I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain.”
But here’s a thought: if Rupert Murdoch succeeds in selling 21st Century Fox‘s TV and film studios, he could swoop in and acquire Turner Broadcasting, which would put Fox News and CNN under the same corporate roof.