AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner will now officially move forward without conditions, after a decision issued Tuesday evening by federal judge Richard Leon.
The AT&T/Time Warner merger will mean that AT&T will assume control over all of Time Warner’s assets, which includes, CNN (owned by Turner Broadcasting System), HBO, the entire Warner Bros. movie studio, and immensely popular TV shows like Game of Thrones. Judge Leon — who was appointed by George W. Bush — argued that evidence for the Trump Justice Department’s accusation that the merger would hurt competition and result in higher prices for consumers was “too thin.”
According to the Associated Press, the merger’s approval could signify a greater consolidation in the media industry in the near future. The AP reported that Disney’s $52.4 billion all-stock offer to purchase the bulk of 21st Century Fox could soon be eclipsed by Comcast, which is expected to make an offer as early as Wednesday. This would mean the same studios producing the big-budget Avatar movies and the long-running cartoon The Simpsons would be absorbed by Comcast, assuming judges continue to rule in favor of future media acquisitions.
Judge Leon’s decision is a serious blow to U.S. antitrust laws, which were set up during the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th century as a means of protecting consumers from being exploited by companies who had gobbled up all of their competition. The Federal Trade Commission’s website explains that Section 7 of the Clayton Act — one of the major antitrust laws put on the books in 1914 — would prevent mergers and acquisitions in which the cumulative effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”
The Trump Justice Department has the option to appeal Judge Leon’s decision, though no announcement has yet been made as of this writing.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.