“U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday expressed wide-ranging concerns about AT&T Inc.’s blockbuster $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc., a reaction that suggests the deal could come under renewed political pressure,” John D. McKinnon reports for Dow Jones Newswires. “Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), in a Senate antitrust subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger, said the deal could lead to ‘potential anticompetitive favoritism. The merger’s potential impact could include price and access problems for competitors seeking Time Warner’s prized content, such as HBO, said Mr. Lee, the subcommittee’s chairman. ”

“He also worried that the deal could create a new problem for the industry and consumers in the form of AT&T’s plans to exclude its online video offerings from its wireless data caps. Critics worry that could turn AT&T into a powerful gatekeeper for consumers’ content, Sen. Lee noted,” McKinnon reports. “AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said Wednesday that AT&T is a communications company that distributes content, while Time Warner is a content creator. The merger ‘eliminates no competitor,’ he said — a classic vertical merger… We’re going against a cable provider to compete,’ Mr. Stephenson said, noting that the company is likely to be competing against entrenched cable-distribution companies.”

“Antitrust enforcers in the Trump administration will ultimately decide whether to approve the deal or block it as anticompetitive, so the senators will have little or no say in the outcome. However, members of Congress can both reflect and contribute to the public mood regarding the merger of such large, high-impact businesses,” McKinnon reports. “The merger deal has taken flak from Mr. Trump, who criticized it on the campaign trail as too much concentration of power and promised to block it.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As noted in the full article, it’s notable that Republican lawmakers are expressing concerns, as they are often apt to take a pro-business approach. McKinnon opines that “may reflect in part a recent surge in populist sentiment in both parties.”

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