AT&T chief denies Justice Department asked for CNN sale

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Thursday he was never told by the Department of Justice that the price of getting the company's massive merger with approved would be to sell CNN, nor did he offer to divest the news network.

"We expect AT&T to fight and based on historical precedent surrounding vertical mergers believe AT&T has the advantage", says the Cowen report. AT&T and Time Warner can walk away if the deal's not closed by April 22. "What gets discussed inside that [negotiating] room is highly privileged and I can not go there", he said.

Just before Stephenson went on, CNBC published a story where a DOJ source says the department didn't try to force a CNN sale, but presented several options to satisfy antitrust conditions. "If we feel like litigation is a better outcome, then we will litigate".

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Updated 1:35 p.m.: "We are prepared to litigate this now", Stephenson says, noting he'd ask for an expedited hearing if necessary. Regardless of all the back and forth, the fact that this deal is now surfacing once more is a good reminder of just how anxious we should be if we see it go through. Even if those costs weren't passed along to the consumer, AT&T charging other companies more to broadcast those channels would still play a part in stifling competition.

He stressed that no government figure, either inside DOJ or, has been suggested, the White House official given President Trump's scorn for CNN, has put pressure on him to sell.

Should AT&T succeed in its acquisition of Time Warner, it would suddenly hold a pretty significant share of the media market. AT&T is "trying to make this a political issue".

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