AT&T hit with antitrust lawsuit over Time Warner deal

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The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Monday challenging a merger between AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. More recently, deal progress was delayed as the DOJ antitrust head, Makan Delrahim worked with AT&T on competitive remedies.

Audio will be available later today.

AT&T and Time Warner announced their $85 billion merger past year but the closing has been dragged out by the government's anti-trust review.

AT&T, which sees the deal as a way to compete against emerging technology companies such as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc's Prime Video, described the lawsuit as "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent".

"We gave a very good faith effort to try to resolve the harm that the government was able to find", the Justice Department official said about negotiations with Time Warner, which already owns DirecTV.

The DOJ announced hours earlier that it is suing to block AT&T's proposed $84.5 billion takeover of Time Warner.

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The company reiterated that vertical mergers of this type are routinely approved.

In statements to the Justice Department, AT&T said specifically that distributors who control popular programming "have the incentive and ability to use that control as a weapon to hinder competition", the official quoted AT&T as saying verbatim.

The lawsuit also said AT&T and Comcast, which control nearly half of the pay-TV market, "would have an increased incentive and ability to harm competition by impending online competitors they consider a threat". AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at the time that his company would not sell any assets and would fight the DOJ in court.

As NPR's David Folkenflik has reported, the DOJ's anticipated lawsuit had "triggered concerns" within CNN that the Trump administration was "taking action against a media outfit simply because it has angered the president with its coverage, raising First Amendment implications".

An AT&T spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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