A high-stakes trial is now under way to determine if AT&T, the nation’s largest telecommunications provider, should be allowed to combine with Time Warner, owner of HBO, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, and Warner Bros. At issue is whether the merger would hinder competition in the TV industry and hurt consumers.
Some have called the battle between the corporations and the government the antitrust case of the decade.
The US Justice Department sued to block the $85 billion merger in November, saying it could limit competition, shut out smaller internet companies, and raise prices for consumers.
Meanwhile, AT&T—which became the country’s largest television distributor in the country with its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV, the country’s largest satellite company—has said the merger will allow it and Time Warner to be more competitive with subscriber-based providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Google’s YouTube.
The debate has been escalated by President Donald Trump’s vocal opposition to the deal on the grounds that it would put “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Critics contend that Trump’s stance may be linked to his anger over what he labels “fake news” reported by CNN.
Antitrust watchers say the judge’s ruling could set a precedent for how heavy-handed the government will be in regulating future media mergers, at both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission.
The following faculty members can serve as experts on this topic:
Stuart Brotman, Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication and Information, is not involved in the case and can offer objective analysis on how the deal would affect media competitors and the public at large. He can be reached at email@example.com or 865-974-5139.
Professor of Law Maurice Stucke is an expert in antitrust law and worked as a trial attorney in the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division before joining UT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-974-9816.
Amy Blakely (email@example.com, 865-974-5034)