$85 billion merger of AT&T, Time Warner to come under federal scrutiny

AT&T has come to terms on a $85.4 billion deal to acquire Time Warner, a merger that would make the phone company a telecommunications Goliath and one that lawmakers said is sure to come under the scrutiny of federal regulators over antitrust issues.

AT&T already is one of the world’s largest communications companies, with more than $147 billion in revenue in 2015, according to its chief executive, Randall L. Stephenson, who would lead the new company if the deal is allowed to go through.

The merger would couple AT&T’s wireless and television subscribers, numbering in the millions, with Time Warner’s notable network portfolio that covers CNN, HBO and Warner Bros. film, among others, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Premium content always wins,” Stephenson said. “It has been true on the big screen, the TV screen and now it’s proving true on the mobile screen.”

Both sides of the 2016 presidential race have already criticized the deal, including Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.

“I’m pro-competition,” Kaine said on Sunday. “Less concentration, I think, is generally helpful especially in the media.”

The U.S. Justice Department, not the president, has the power to reject such a deal if it violates antitrust laws. AT&T said it is unclear if the Federal Communications Commission will have jurisdiction to review the deal.

Trump said Saturday that he would block the merger if he won the presidency despite the fact the authority to rebuff such a deal over antitrust laws would be left in the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice, Reuters reported.

“It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” said Trump.

Members of the Senate subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues told Reuters the committee would survey the deal.

“We have carefully examined consolidation in the cable and video content industries to ensure that it does not harm consumers,” said Republican Sen. Mike Lee and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a joint statement. “An acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T would potentially raise significant antitrust issues, which the subcommittee would carefully examine.”