Justice Department Sues AT&T for Collusion; Proposed Merger Would Give Even More Power to Ringleaders

Contact Info: 

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed suit against AT&T and its subsidiary DirecTV for allegedly acting as “ringleaders” in an illegal campaign to block wide carriage of a cable-TV channel owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The suit, which accuses DirecTV of illegal conduct and information sharing with Cox, Charter and AT&T (before it completed its takeover of the pay-TV company), arrives on the heels of AT&T’s latest proposed mega-merger with the content giant Time Warner, owner of CNN, HBO, TNT and Warner Bros. studios.

Earlier in the day, Free Press and 17 other digital rights and consumer advocacy groups sent a letter to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump urging them to reject the AT&T/Time Warner merger if they take office, citing antitrust issues and other concerns.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“The Justice Department’s action today signals the danger of concentrating too much media power in too few hands. It’s a huge problem when a handful of giant cable and satellite companies collude to drive their own costs down while leaving viewers with limited options to get desirable content. We should remember too that the exorbitant prices sports leagues and movies studios demand are a problem as well, and that neither side in this broken negotiation really had its customers’ interests at heart.

“Putting the content and distribution channels all under one roof is no answer to these problems. The timing of today’s announcement likely had nothing to do with the monstrous proposed AT&T/Time Warner merger. But the impact of runaway consolidation — and the identity of the ringleaders in the alleged scheme — shouldn’t be lost on lawmakers and antitrust enforcement.  AT&T and DirecTV had too much power over the pay-TV, internet and content markets even before their multibillion-dollar merger closed last year. Now that they’ve joined forces, the absolute last thing we need is approval of a deal that would put these bad actors in control of Time Warner’s video content empire.”

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good