There's something fishy about the Justice Dept.'s demand that AT&T unload Turner Networks and its crown jewel CNN before it grants approval of its $85B takeover of Time-Warner?
Is the Justice Dept.’s move a pure political play? Are the invisible hands of Donald Trump pulling the strings regarding the CNN divestiture?
After all, AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens told an investor conference that a “vertical merger like this hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years."
Indeed, the Obama Administration, which was a tad less business-friendly than the Trump White House gave its blessing to the then-blockbuster hookup of Comcast and NBCUniversal.
Trump, of course, is no fan of CNN, which he berates as “fake news” at every opportunity. During the campaign Trump blasted the AT&T/Time Warner merger with “deals like this destroy democracy” and “an example of the power structure” that he was fighting.
Backed with AT&T’s financial muscle, CNN would be an even more formidable player on the world’s media stage. It could hire reporters, add bureaus and invest in the latest digital communications technology. Bad news for Donald?
An independent CNN would be financially weak and in play for takeover by the likes of the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group or even Fox News, especially if Rupert Murdoch decides to say good-bye to Hollywood to concentrate on the news business.
There are solid reasons to oppose the AT&T/Time-Warner hook-up, dealing with concentration of power, media consolidation and the sheer scope of the deal.
It’s downright scandalous though if Attorney General Jeff Sessions is forcing the divestiture of CNN to win favor with Trump, who is furious that the former Alabama Senator recused himself in the Russian collusion probe.
Trump may think that he's all that matters, but there are still checks and balances designed to check the power of an abusive president.