Dem asks for 'highest level of scrutiny' on AT&T-Time Warner deal

Dem asks for 'highest level of scrutiny' on AT&T-Time Warner deal
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Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP Barbs start to fly ahead of first Democratic debate MORE on Monday asked regulators to subject the proposed sale of Time Warner to AT&T to the “highest level of scrutiny.”

“I am writing to urge you to examine AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner with the highest level of scrutiny,” he said in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler.

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“I strongly believe that further consolidation in the telecommunications and media industries should only be permitted if it results in better and more affordable services for consumers across the nation, and I have serious doubts that such aims could be achieved with this deal.”

Noting that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has said that regulator’s concerns could be addressed through merger conditions, Franken said that he has “serious doubts about the enforceability and reliability of such conditions as a remedy for anticompetitive behavior.”

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the deal but said it was reviewing the letter.

The letter is the latest shot by a lawmaker against the deal, valued at more than $80 million, which was announced this weekend.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (D-Vt.) said on Monday that the “proposed massive consolidation of distribution and content raises potentially serious questions about competition, consumer choice, and privacy across the media, cable TV, wireless and broadband industries” and called for a hearing on the transaction. The panel’s antitrust subcommittee has already said it will hold a hearing on the deal.

While the Department of Justice is certain to review the deal, the FCC’s role is less clear. The companies have said it will depend on whether Time Warner’s licenses are purchased by AT&T.

Skeptics of the deal say it could give AT&T the power to give preferential treatment within its distribution channels to its own content. Franken was also a critic of a similar merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal.