It’s no secret to those of us in Gainesville that Cox Communications sucks. But elsewhere in the U.S., there are plenty of service options. If you don’t like watching TV while it’s raining outside, you can opt with DirecTV (owned by AT&T). If you have no regard for your bandwidth, Sling TV might be for you. If you’re a masochist who likes being treated like s--- by customer service reps, Dish Network is right up your alley.
So with news surfacing this week that AT&T is interested in purchasing Time Warner Inc. for a mere $85.4 billion, a national conversation has sparked. It seems now that we’re one step closer to having a completely uniform media space in terms of television. It’s already devastating that six companies own virtually everything you watch on television (General Electric Co., News Corp., The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc., Time Warner Inc. and CBS), now there is a direct merger between one of the country’s most prominent communication companies and one of those six massive content providers.
Time Warner includes such networks like CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TNT, TBS, TruTV and the CW. Letting AT&T have the authority to control and manipulate the content on those channels is a massive conflict of interest, for it could advertise and manipulate viewers simply by inundation. Moreover, it’s the first step in a more controlled and restricted media. Not by the government, which really only owns the universally ignored C-SPAN networks, but by a private corporation.
Moreover, in terms of economic practice, this merger raises some pretty hefty red flags. With the unification of these two companies, they would be able to raise prices for their services and limit what consumers are able to watch. As Sen. Bernie Sanders noted, this deal would “mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people.” Even vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine noted that he had “concerns and questions” about this merger, furthering that “less concentration, I think, is generally helpful, especially in the media.”
For once, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is on the right side of history with this one. He said, “As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
AT&T, who has its hands on the cellphone industry (both as AT&T and as Cricket Wireless) and the TV industry (as DirecTV and as U-verse), has been in trouble for existing as a monopoly before. In 1982, U.S. regulators destroyed the AT&T monopoly. Ever since, it has been trying to put itself together again. This is simply an extension of that policy to both have control over the industry as well as increase revenue. In terms of revenue, AT&T is the largest telecommunication company in the world.
So if this undeniably bad merger is so universally hated among our political leadership, how did it even get this far? How is there a system in place by leaders in which this is even a possibility? It’s quite simple. Companies like AT&T and Time Warner funnel obscene amounts of money into super PACs, which in turn help candidates get elected into public office. If we want massive deals like this to stop, we need to enact some type of campaign finance reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, AT&T is the second-largest donor to U.S. political campaigns.
It’s good to hear that both sides of the aisle are apprehensive to come to terms with this deal and are trying to stop even more intensive corporate control of media. However, we as American constituents and consumers must do something about this absurd attempt to control what we watch and how much it costs to watch it.