Today, a federal judge issued a ruling approving the proposed $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The approval allows one of the largest internet service providers to merge with one of the largest film and television studio companies creating an entity that will control the content and distribution of some of the most popular programming in the market.
The following can be attributed to Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner & Common Cause Special Adviser:
“Justice denied is consumers skewered. This is a horse-and-buggy decision blind to today’s communications marketplace. The court’s decision blessing the AT&T/Time Warner merger creates a communications behemoth that that will raise prices for consumers, curb innovation, and reduce the amount of independent and diverse programmers in the video marketplace. Marrying content and carriage creates gatekeepers with all the incentive to favor their own services at the expense of their competitors, and that’s exactly what AT&T will do. A post-merger AT&T will now have the ability to charge rival distributors higher rates for access to Time Warner programming who will undoubtedly pass those costs on to their customers. AT&T will also have the incentive to discriminate against online streaming services that compete with HBO NOW, harming innovation in a nascent online marketplace. AT&T will also prioritize Time Warner properties making it harder for independent and diverse programmers to gain carriage.
“The problems with this merger don’t end there. With the recent repeal of net neutrality, AT&T now has the ability to block or throttle any online content that competes with Time Warner programming. AT&T can also offer internet plans that incentivize its customers to watch Time Warner content over any of its online competitors.
“Our democracy depends on a vibrant and robust media that promotes consumer choice, competition, and a diversity of voices. The decision to approve the AT&T/Time Warner merger further entrenches AT&T as a media gatekeeper that harms the public interest and opens the door for more media consolidation in the future.”