As AT&T (NYSE:T) prepares to fight the Department of Justice for its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai weighed in on the potential outcome.
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“This is not within the FCC’s jurisdiction. It will be handled by the Justice Department, and so I have confidence in the professionals over there to make the appropriate judgement,” Pai told the FOX Business Network’s Stuart Varney.
The Department of Justice is reportedly demanding that AT&T sell some assets, which may include Turner Broadcasting, home to CNN, as a stipulation to approve the mega-merger. Critics are concerned the deal may give the combined companies too much pricing power over rivals. On Thursday, FOX Business reported AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made it clear he’ll fight to get the deal done without shedding CNN. “We are prepared to litigate now,” he said, later noting that he believed any lawsuit would be completed by the merger’s deadline of April 22, 2018, as reported from The New York Times DealBook Conference on Thursday.
While the FCC doesn’t play a role in deciding whether the deal should win approval or not, it does oversee regulation for television, radio, cable and satellite, many businesses that the combined company would encompass. Pai acknowledged the industry is undergoing a sea change that is spurring the need to be more competitive.
“One of the things that is noticeable about the 21st century is that there’s all kinds of competition that could not have been conceived when the FCC established these media ownership rules all the way back in 1975,” he said. “I look at it from the consumer’s perspective. Consumers want as much news as they can get on a variety of devices from a variety of companies, and the last thing the government should do is stand in the way and saying, ‘No, we demand the marketplace be as it was in 1975.’”
Under Pai’s direction, the FCC has been weeding through outdated regulations in efforts to make the commission more effective.
“The FCC staff has been actually tremendous. They’ve been helping us do the legwork, the nitty gritty work behind the scenes to help this happen. And we’ve gotten rid of regulations that dated back to the FCC’s telegraph division in 1936.”