Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to carefully examine the implications of the intended merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
"The Justice Department, and possibly the Federal Communications Commission, will determine whether to approve or reject this merger," Grassley said in a prepared statement to the committee.
"And decide whether or what conditions should be imposed in order for the parties to proceed with their transaction. Nonetheless, our oversight responsibility is an important one, where the Committee can flesh out potential issues and highlight possible impacts of the merger on the market and consumers."
The two company's CEOs, Randall Stephenson and Jeffrey Bewkes, both testified before Congress on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
"By owning Time Warner content, we will be able to innovate more quickly, experiment more readily, tweak our offerings as we gauge customer response and bring consumers the options they seek," Stephenson said at the hearing.
"There's concern about the merged company's ability to employ 'bullying' tactics to dictate rates and terms to other networks," Grassley said in his statement. "There's concern that this acquisition will concentrate too much power into one conglomerate, resulting in higher prices and fewer programming options for consumers. There's also concern about the merger's implications for a free and diverse press.
"These are all serious concerns which should be scrutinized carefully by the antitrust regulators tasked with reviewing this transaction."
But Grassley also notes that the rapidly changing business structure of home media may upend conventional concerns about large-scale mergers.
"With tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and others changing the way consumers access content, it's legitimate to ask whether 'what looks straightforwardly anti-competitive in the old industrial-merger models might not be so simple in the merger of modern media platforms.'
"Certainly, the AT&T-Time Warner deal warrants close and careful scrutiny because it raises all these complex issues and concerns."
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