AT&T-Time Warner deal sparks calls for scrutiny in Washington

Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:31pm EDT
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By Julia Edwards and Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AT&T Inc's (T.N: Quote) proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N: Quote) generated skepticism among both Democrats and Republicans on Sunday, making it more likely that regulators will closely scrutinize the effort to create a new telecommunications and media giant.

The biggest deal of the year, announced just over two weeks before the Nov. 8 U.S. election, is a gamble on a victory for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and a continuation of the status quo on anti-trust and regulatory enforcement.

The Republican candidate Donald Trump, who is trailing Clinton in the polls, has said he would block the takeover.

The billionaire businessman has railed against the media's role in what he has described as a "rigged" election and he believes the acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN and Warner Bros, Hollywood's largest film and television studio, would concentrate too much power in one organization.

"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," Trump economic advisor Peter Navarro said in a statement on Sunday.

Clinton, who has expressed misgivings about other corporate mega mergers, has not yet commented on the takeover.

But Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton's former rival for the Democratic party's nomination, said on Twitter that the administration should "kill" the Time Warner takeover because it would mean higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Sanders' comments carry weight because Clinton needs Sanders' coalition of young and left-leaning voters to propel her to the presidency.   Continued...

Signage that reads Time Warner is seen at the Time Warner Center in New York City, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith