After AT&T and Time Warner announced their planned $85 billion merger last year, it became clear that there might be a political problem: President Donald Trump’s seething hatred of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. And now, it is all coming to pass.
The FT reports that US Justice Department regulators have told AT&T that it needs to sell CNN if it wants to get the merger approved. There is no indication (at least not yet) that this condition is presented as part of a coherent objection to this massive media merger, such as “Enormous media consolidation like this is bad for consumers and the free press.” Rather:
“It’s all about CNN,” said one person with direct knowledge of the talks between the company and the DOJ, adding that the regulator made it clear to AT&T that if it sold CNN the deal would go through.
[Update: The latest reports say the government is demanding the sale of the entire Turner Broadcasting division, which includes CNN, which amounts to the same thing.]
If you think that the Republican party or Donald Trump himself is opposed to a corporate merger on public interest grounds, I am chuckling vociferously into your face right now. This is banana republic shit. Our child president hates CNN because he doesn’t think they are nice to him, therefore he will use an $85 billion merger approval as a chance to even the score.
The journalists at CNN are now tiny, tiny pawns in a game that is being played far, far above their heads. Maybe they will be quietly leaned on to soften their coverage? Maybe they will be sold? Or sure, maybe their parent company will win this merger battle in the courts. But what will not happen is major corporate executives scrapping an enormous merger just because some degree of journalistic integrity may be at stake.
CNN, get yourself a union before you get stepped on by some $85 billion shoes.