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Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC

Although the ink is barely dry on AT&T's proposed purchase of Time Warner, opposition to the deal is already mounting, led by Donald Trump.

In a speech slamming the US mainstream media as "crooked," Trump vowed Saturday to block AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) if elected president next month. Seeking to cast himself as a trustbuster in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican presidential nominee declared that he would stop or break up corporate mega-mergers, especially in the media business.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pa., Trump termed the AT&T-Time Warner pact "a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." The vow comes after the one-time reality show star has often criticized the news media, especially Time Warner's CNN, for allegedly biased reporting against him.

Along the same lines, Trump also pledged to somehow undo Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s takeover of NBC Universal , even though that acquisition was approved by federal regulators and consummated several years ago. Claiming that "deals like this break democracy," he said his administration would "look at breaking that deal up and others like it" because it concentrates too much power in a single media entity.

"This should have never ever been approved in the first place," he said. "They're trying to poison the mind of the American viewer."

Trump's unprecedented threat to reverse Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal comes a year after the break-up of his long relationship with NBC, which carried his primetime show, The Apprentice, for years. It also comes after the Republican candidate has publicly griped about the skits that NBC's Saturday Night Live program has run on the presidential campaign mocking him.

But Trump is not the only political candidate taking issue with the latest proposed big media deal. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for vice president, also expressed concerns about the AT&T-Time Warner pact Sunday morning while making the rounds of the TV news talk shows. He said lawmakers and regulators must review the deal to "get to the bottom" of questions about whether the merger would hurt competition in the media sector.

"I'm pro-competition," Kaine declared on NBC's Meet the Press program. "Less concentration, I think, is generally helpful, especially in the media."

Kaine added that he hasn't had a chance to review the details of the proposed deal. Later in the day, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seconded Kaine's view, saying through a spokesperson that US regulators "should scrutinize it [the deal] closely."

In addition to the three candidates, several key US lawmakers expressed antitrust concerns about any union between AT&T and Time Warner over the weekend. The list includes: Sen Mike Lee, the Republican chair of the Senate subcommittee on antitrust; Amy Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee; and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic lawmaker from Connecticut.

In the media business, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), a leading rival to Time Warner on the content side, has already taken the first swing at the deal. In a statement late Saturday, Disney Chief Communications Officer and Executive Vice President Zenia Mucha said "a transaction of this magnitude obviously deserves very close regulatory scrutiny."

The American Cable Association (ACA) , which represents small and independent cable operators, isn't too thrilled about the proposed corporate marriage either. "As the FCC has found in past mergers, combining valuable content with pay-TV distribution causes harm, to consumers and competition in the pay-TV market," ACA President Matthew Polka said in a statement. He argued that "the vertical integration of the merged company must be an issue that regulators closely examine."

Public interest groups railed against the deal as well, contending that it will lead to higher prices and other problems for consumers. "Just as AT&T's recent purchase of DirecTV was quickly followed by price hikes, there's every reason to expect this proposed tie-up would cost Internet users and TV viewers dearly too," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood.

So the battle is on. Stay tuned for more.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, >Light Reading

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KBode 10/24/2016 | 4:42:46 PM
Re: Stopped Clocks Hope those folks aren't expecting too much. Historically most of the conditions affixed to these deals are proposed by the companies themselves and don't really seem to do all that much. Meanwhile, still not sure that buying a satellite TV provider and a mega-broadcaster just as ratings are dipping will be the greatest long term play, but we'll see.
DanJones 10/24/2016 | 4:26:38 PM
Re: Stopped Clocks I think that's probably right, but people seem to be expecting strigent terms and conditions already.
KBode 10/24/2016 | 3:59:35 PM
Re: Stopped Clocks I'm very, very curious if the Clinton camp approves this deal. The very fact that it's being announced seems to suggest that AT&T thinks it will.
DanJones 10/24/2016 | 3:17:20 PM
Re: dumbass Well yeah!

 

That would still probably indicate a large defeat for Trump though, as I understand it.
mendyk 10/24/2016 | 3:15:32 PM
Re: dumbass The other side of this coin is that he's ONLY down by 12% to 20% among women, despite everything that has transpired.
DanJones 10/24/2016 | 3:12:25 PM
Re: dumbass Note: I didn't even bother to think about Trump as president at this point. He's down 12 to 20% with women in the latest polls. He's got the gall but he hasn't got the numbers.
DanJones 10/24/2016 | 3:09:53 PM
Re: Your take on the matter I think it'll go through, probaly late 2017, but with a lot of scrutiny first. Bet the feds are going to want to ensure that other players get fair access to the films, TV etc that Time Warner produces. How's that done? Ah, the devils in the details, eh?
mendyk 10/24/2016 | 3:07:15 PM
Re: dumbass Fortunately, the discussion isn't relevant because the president cannot unilaterally block this merger. Maybe basic civics tests for candidates should be part of the vetting process in the future.
danielcawrey 10/24/2016 | 2:00:28 PM
Re: dumbass For as much free media exposure as Trump has gotten, it's amazing he would complain. It's really hard to believe anything this guy says anymore anyways. He's just talking because he knows it works a lot better than campaign ads. 
inkstainedwretch 10/24/2016 | 1:20:41 PM
Stopped Clocks Clinton & Kaine understand that the deal has to be approved or rejected based on the merits.

Trump's reaction, meanwhile, is based entirely on his suspicion that there is some Vast Left Wing Media Conspiracy that is nefariously rigging the election by, I dunno, accurately reporting what he says and does or somesuch.

Once again, Trump's policiy position is based entirely on what's good or bad for Trump. It has nothing to do with the country or just with business.

-- Brian Santo

 
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