November 21, 2017 Last Updated 8:38 am

AT&T vows to fight DOJ’s effort to prevent Time Warner merger; FCC reportedly about to unveil plans to kill net neutrality

Morning Brief: CBS programming goes dark for Dish customers as two companies argue over carriage fees, viewers horrified over prospects that they may be forced to talk to family members over the Thanksgiving holiday (thank God for smartphones)

Was the issue of giant monopolies a major issue in the last election? Not that I can remember, though it probably should have been.

That’s what makes the idea that the Justice Department suing AT&T to prevent the Time Warner deal a bit strange.

What we know is that the president hates CNN, but loves big American corporations. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, made a fortune talking to big companies for fees. So, that means that the power being accumulated by giant companies like Comcast, AT&T, Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook never really was an issue discussed much in the 2016 presidential election. What we got was a debate over was a puppet (though it really wasn’t a debate so much as a childish spat).

It is ironic that AT&T is about to wage battle against an unpopular administration, because as early as today that same administration is going to hand AT&T and others even more control over our lives when the FCC outlines its plans to overturn net neutrality rules. This will grow the power of companies like AT&T to determine what content you can receive and at what speeds, virtually dictating our use of the Internet.

Bloomberg, Sara Forden, David McLaughlin and Scott Moritz:

AT&T, U.S. Prepare to Battle in Court Over Time Warner Merger

A defiant Randall Stephenson told antitrust enforcers that AT&T Inc. would see them in court after the Justice Department sued to block the company’s $85.4 billion bid to buy Time Warner Inc.

The lawsuit “stretches the very idea of antitrust law beyond the breaking point,” Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive officer, said at a briefing Monday. He left the door open for negotiations to find a way for the deal to pass federal muster — but reiterated that he wouldn’t sell CNN to appease Washington, whether the deal was influenced by President Donald Trump or not.

Reuters, Supantha Mukherjee:

Law likely on AT&T’s side in Time Warner battle: analysts

AT&T Inc is likely to emerge victorious from a legal fight with the United States Department of Justice over its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc, analysts said in a series of research notes on Tuesday…

We are surprised at the lawsuit as there are decades of clear legal precedent on how these deals are handled,” Oppenheimer analysts wrote in a client note.

“We see a 75 percent chance AT&T wins at trial and the onus is on the DOJ to prove potential harm.”

Politico, Jack Shafer:

AT&T Should Thank the Trump Administration

Although AT&T has vowed to fight the government’s soon-to-be-announced lawsuit, the company should take advantage of the government’s intervention to retreat. Acquisitions like this rarely make money for the buyer, and such media acquisitions often dissolve into a crucible of tears as the buyer comes to his senses and unloads the properties he once so coveted.

The Verge, Jacob Kastrenakes:

FCC is expected to unveil its plan to destroy net neutrality during Thanksgiving week

While Americans are busy traveling, paying attention to Black Friday deals, and spending time with family, the Federal Communications Commission will be rolling out its least popular proposal of the year: its final plan to dismantle net neutrality — the set of rules that prevent internet providers from giving some websites and internet traffic an advantage over others…

…Republicans at the FCC, who are behind this proposal, argue that the stricter rules enacted two years ago have hampered investment in broadband and caused internet providers to slow the expansion of their networks. This is a problem, given that the FCC is tasked with ensuring the entire country gets connected. But there isn’t a ton of data to back this up. It’s only been two years, and though there was a small dip in investment, it was also attributable to factors like high oil prices and costly acquisitions. The Republican commissioners also just generally believe that making companies fill out compliance forms and follow rules is onerous and prevents innovation.



Dish customers no longer can view CBS programming this morning as the two companies continue their dispute over carriage fees.

What CBS wants, of course, is more money from Dish for the right to carry its programming. Wants to for CBS not to add to the pressure on them to raise prices to customers at a time when many are deciding to cut the cord permanently.

The move may mean that families will be forced to talk to each other in Dish households this Thanksgiving. This could be a problem in those households where the conversation turns to politics, though.

Variety, Brian Steinberg:

CBS is Blacked Out on Dish as Carriage Talks Hit Snag

In total, the disagreement means 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states will be off the air until the two sides can agree upon terms for a new contract.

The showdown pits a TV company keen to use its top-rated broadcast programming to eke out new deals with distributors of all sorts with a satellite company that has demonstrated a flair for hard-nosed negotiations in recent years. “CBS is attempting to tax Dish customers on programming that’s losing viewers, tax Dish customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax Dish customers for content available directly from CBS,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive vice president of marketing, programming and media sales, in a statement. “Our customers are clear: they don’t want to pay a CBS tax. It’s regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.”

Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton:

ATVA: CBS ‘Cash-Grab’ Threatens Frosty the Snowman

The American Television Alliance whose members include hundreds of cable systems and major satellite operators, has renewed its call for the government to reform “outdated and broken video laws.”

In the wake of CBS stations coming off DISH TV two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, ATVA put the blame squarely on CBS and said it should restore the signals ASAP. ATVA said the company was willing to block the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Frosty the Snowman and NFL football, all Thanksgiving traditions, in “an obvious cash grab.”



Twitter… Maybe it is time the company is forced to register as an agent of a foreign government.

The Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins and Spencer Ackerman:

Twitter Has Turned Over Zero New Russian Troll Accounts to Congress

Twitter has not provided the House and Senate Russia investigations with any additional Kremlin-backed imposter accounts and bots since at least Nov. 1, The Daily Beast has confirmed. The lack of new disclosure comes as evidence continues to mount that inauthentic Russian activity continues apace on the microblogging platform…

…While not disputing The Daily Beast’s story, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “continuing to work closely with congressional investigators to provide information relevant to their inquiries, consistent with our policies and federal privacy rules. We aggressively enforce our policies and, as appropriate, take action on content that violates our terms of service.”

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