Several reports broke today that the Department of Justice is weighing forcing AT&T to spin off CNN (either alone or as part of the greater Turner Broadcasting subsidiary) in order to move ahead with its acquisition of Time Warner. It has also been reported that the Department of Justice gave the option of spinning off either Turner Broadcasting or Directv.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement, “Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight. Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”
The Department of Justice did not comment on the reports, saying in a statement, “The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts. Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation.”
AT&T has several reasons for wanting to keep on Turner Broadcasting, which Ted Turner founded before the company merged with Time Warner in 1996. The division is one of Time Warner’s biggest financially, a cash cow in terms of revenue and profit. Furthermore, AT&T’s main intent in acquiring Time Warner is to obtain more content and Turner Broadcasting has numerous channels and websites.
AT&T’s attempted purchase of Time Warner has up until this point been expected to be approved by the Justice Department because it is a vertical integration, meaning that this will not decrease competition in a specific industry. The American government is the only government that still needs to approve the deal and some have wondered what role, if any, President Donald Trump is playing in this matter. Trump railed against the deal when running for president. However, no reporting from either TKNN or other outlets has indicated that the president played a direct role in the Department’s decision.
However, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division, said last year that this would not be “a major antitrust problem” when talking to a Canadian TV station.