Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday urged the U.S. Department of Justice to block the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, citing the widespread warnings against creating such media empires.
In a letter to the department’s antitrust division, Sanders wrote, “This proposed merger is just the latest effort to shrink our media landscape, stifle competition and diversity of content, and provide consumers with less while charging them more.”
“This merger represents a gross concentration of power that runs counter to the public good and should be blocked,” he said.
News of the potential $85.4 billion acquisition emerged over the weekend, and media watchdogs and democracy groups like Free Press and Common Cause immediately issued warnings against it and urged federal regulators to reject it.
Opponents noted that previous mega-mergers have offset costs of the deals at their customers’ expense, notably by charging more for services and implementing data caps, among other measures. And by consolidating a significant amount of media power—Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, and Warner Brothers, among other properties—the merger could discriminate against competitors and harm media diversity.
“Further entrenching monopoly harms innovation and drives up prices for consumers,” Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps said on Monday.
Free Press policy director Matt Wood also cautioned, “Big mergers like this inevitably mean higher prices for real people, to pay down the money borrowed to finance these deals and their golden parachutes.”
Sanders’ letter continued, “The diversity of programing would be further diminished by truncating the relationship of content and distribution. When one giant company owns both the content and the means of distribution, there is a clear disincentive to provide additional choices to consumers.”
“The media and telecommunications landscape is changing. It is important that public policy concerns guide these changes, so that we may preserve our democratic discourse and open competitive markets for speech and commerce,” he said.
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