New York, NY (BBN)– US lawmakers and both presidential candidates have raised questions about AT&T’s deal to buy Time Warner.
The US telecoms giant, already the country’s third largest cable provider, is paying $85.4bn (£70bn) for the company, which owns CNN and HBO, reports BBC.
A Senate subcommittee responsible for competition will hold a hearing in November.
However AT&T’s chief executive Randall Stephenson believes regulators will approve the deal.
Senator Mike Lee, the Republican who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, said the deal would “potentially raise significant antitrust issues, which the subcommittee would carefully examine”.
The biggest merger to be announced this year would combine AT&T’s distribution network, which includes 130m mobile phone customers and 25m pay-TV subscribers, with content from the Warner Brothers film studios and the cable TV channels HBO, the Cartoon Network and CNN.
The competition concerns centre on higher prices for customers and less consumer choice.
A spokesman for the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said there were “a number of questions and concerns” about the deal that regulators needed to scrutinise, but added “there’s still a lot of information that needs to come out before any conclusions should be reached”.
Meanwhile Republican candidate Donald Trump has said that he would block the merger if he wins, because it was “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few”.
The president does not have the final say – that lies with the US Justice Department, which can approve, block or put conditions on the takeover going through.
Other critics, such as John Bergmayer from Public Knowledge, a campaign group that promotes access to affordable media, warned that consumers may lose out from the deal. Mr Bergmayer suggested that AT&T might let mobile customers watch TV and films from Time Warner without counting it against their data caps, which would make video from other providers less attractive.
But AT&T’s Mr Stephenson argued that there was “no competitive harm that is being rendered by putting these two companies together, so any concerns by the regulators, we believe, will be adequately addressed by conditions.”