John Oliver rips AT&T-Time Warner merger

Late-night host John Oliver took on antitrust policy in a segment during his HBO show where he railed against the planned AT&T-Time Warner merger.

On Sunday night, during an episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took shots at the major telecom company — and others such as eyewear company Luxottica and even Google — for consolidation across markets, which he says is is harming innovation and consumers.

“Even our own company, Time-Warner, is trying to merge with AT&T, which makes this story a little dangerous to do. That is presuming AT&T executives get their shitty service working long enough to see it,” Oliver joked.

The late-night host made his case against the dangers of a few corporations dominating entire industries:

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“Heavily consolidated industries can lose incentive to innovate, and the best example of this maybe the cable box beneath your TV,” Oliver said. “If you have one of those, you probably hate it because it’s huge, it’s glitchy, and it may be one of the largest energy consuming items in your house even when it’s turned off. If you think about it, cable companies have no real incentive to improve them. They are essentially regional monopolies. They know you basically have nowhere else to go.”

Oliver’s arguments come as some groups on the left push to re-evaluate antitrust policy and more closely scrutinize major mergers.

Even though AT&T’s merger is seen as very likely to be approved by the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have still voiced concerns over the potential negative implications the deal could have.

During a Senate hearing on the merger in December, Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota EMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Dem pledges to ask all court nominees about sexual harassment history under oath MORE (D-Minn.) charged that AT&T would have tremendous, and potentially unfair, amounts of leverage in negotiations over content.

AT&T and Time Warner have defended the acquisition, saying it will help the two companies operate more efficiently, helping them pass cost savings along to consumers. They expect the pending deal to close by the end of the year.

More recently, in a draft of the “Better Deal” plan, which targets consolidation across industries, Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said that if the AT&T merger with Time Warner is successful “behemoths [could] promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market.”