Smooth sailing on Hill for AT&T-DirecTV deal?

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to explore the pros and cons of AT&T’s $48.5 billion plan to buy DirecTV.

The panel announced the plans late on Sunday evening. The inquiry is likely to mirror oversight of the planned $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

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“The committee has a strong record of reviewing proposed transactions that could have a significant impact on consumers and the competitive marketplace,” leaders of the panel and its antitrust subcommittee said in a joint statement. “We intend to continue that record by conducting a hearing to examine the proposed AT&T and DirecTV merger to ensure that consumers’ interests are protected in an increasingly consolidated telecommunications marketplace.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is the ranking member. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) leads the antitrust panel and Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.) is the top Democrat.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to follow suit with a hearing of its own.

The AT&T and DirecTV proposal, announced earlier on Sunday, would be the fourth-largest telecommunications merger in history. By taking over the satellite TV company, AT&T would be able to expand its broadband Internet service to millions of new customers, especially in rural areas, and also give it a leg up in distributing video and other content through people’s phones, televisions, computers and other platforms.

Though Congress will take an interest in the proposal, which has already been panned by consumer interest advocates, regulators at the Federal Communications Commission and either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission will likely have the final say.

The announcement comes weeks after Comcast, the No. 1 cable provider in the country, announced its plans to buy Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 in the industry.

If both deals are approved, AT&T would become the second-largest paid television company in the U.S. 

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