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Presidential Campaigns Blast AT&T-Time Warner Merger

An AT&T store on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Kena Betancur
AFP/Getty Images
An AT&T store on Fifth Avenue in New York.

AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is already raising eyebrows among an important constituency: politicians. Reaction to the deal, which was announced Saturday night, has been swift, and skeptical, from both sides of the aisle.

At a rally in Gettysburg, Pa., earlier Saturday, after news of the deal had started to trickle out, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said it was "a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

Trump also released a statement Sunday from campaign economic adviser Peter Navarro reading, in part:

"AT&T, the original and abusive 'Ma Bell' telephone monopoly, is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal because it concentrates too much power in the hands of the too and powerful few."

The concentration of resources and competition is a concern for Democrats, too. Appearing on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said "pro-competition and less concentration, I think, is generally helpful, especially in the media."

And former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted that the Obama administration should kill the merger: "This deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people."

Time Warner owns CNN, HBO and Warner Bros., and there is concern that giving AT&T, which now owns DirectTV, control over that content could put other program providers at a competitive disadvantage.

The proposed merger is sure to face regulatory hurdles, although it's not yet clear which agencies will be involved. The Department of Justice may review the proposal on antitrust grounds. The Federal Communications Commission may wish to look at the media consolidation angle. Neither agency has commented on the deal.

There are concerns already being expressed in Congress, too. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and the panel's top Democrat, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, issued a joint statement saying the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues, which the subcommittee would carefully examine."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.