The United States Department of Justice has reportedly demanded the sale of assets such as CNN to approve a $85 billion (approximately Rs 5.5 lakh crore) merger between American telecommunications giant AT&T and mass media conglomerate Time Warner, BBC reported.
AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens has told investors that the firm is no longer certain about when the company will be able to close the deal amid active discussions with the Department of Justice. The merger was earlier expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The Justice department wants AT&T to sell Turner Broadcasting, executives from both companies have told The New York Times. Turner Broadcasting is the group of cable channels, including CNN, that Time Warner owns.
CNN has frequently been accused by President Donald Trump of spreading “fake news” about him and his administration. Last year, during the presidential campaign, Trump had spoken out against the proposed deal. “As an example of the power structure I am fighting,” he had said in Gettysburg, “AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration, because it is too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
The president, however, is not in charge of reviewing the merger proposal. The deal will be scrutinised by competition regulators at the justice department. Trump recently appointed Makan Delrahim as the department’s antitrust division chief. He is now reportedly involved in the talks, the BBC reported.
Regulators will attempt to determine if the deal would allow AT&T to raise prices for Time Warner content for other companies, costs that will trickle down to customers in the end. The telecom giant is combating slowing growth in its core business of cellular and internet services and is looking to take on online streaming services such as Netflix.
However, Democrats such as Senator Amy Klobuchar have also said that they are concerned about the antitrust questions raised by the proposed deal.