WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, 18 digital rights, social justice and consumer advocacy groups representing tens of millions of people sent a letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump urging the presidential candidates to reject the proposed AT&T/Time Warner merger and oppose growing monopoly power in America.
“There is little evidence that anyone — other than the executives and shareholders of the merging companies — benefits from these massive deals,” the letter reads. “The recent history of media concentration is littered with broken promises and higher prices for customers.”
The letter is available here.
The signers are 18 Million Rising, the Alliance for Community Media, Color Of Change, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Future of Music Coalition, the Greenlining Institute, the Media Access Project, the Media Alliance, the Media Mobilizing Project, Open Media, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Presente.org, RootsAction and Stop the Cap. The letter was also signed by Barry C. Lynn, the director of New America’s Open Markets Program.
The merger, valued at $107 billion when Time Warner’s debt is factored in, would create a media colossus with a market value of approximately $300 billion. With previous mergers of this scale, the concentration of market power has led to higher prices for consumers and fewer choices in the marketplace.
“Too many sectors are already marked by such concentration,” the letter reads, “with powerful gatekeepers controlling huge swaths of the economy and dictating their own terms in Washington, D.C.” The signers are urging the incoming presidential administration to protect our economy and democracy against the harms of corporate consolidation.
“That such a farce would be allowed after all the democracy-busting media consolidation that has been visited upon us is mind-boggling. Where are the guts to just say no?,” said Common Cause Special Adviser and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps.
“This merger would create a massive new conglomerate with huge investments in content production and distribution — giving it extra incentives and opportunities to manipulate information flows to its advantage, violate user privacy and otherwise abuse consumers and vendors,” said Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal. “It will also create a behemoth whose lobbying and elections expenditures will allow it to entrench its power and warp the law to suit its interests. It must be stopped.”
“These organizations represent millions of people who are fed up with power-hungry companies like AT&T that want to control our lives, our wallets and our internet connections,” said Free Press Field Director Mary Alice Crim. “Instead of spending time and money on this deal AT&T should offer better internet services at prices that more families across the country can actually afford. The next president needs to stop this deal in its tracks.”
“This merger will be bad for communities of color,” said Greenlining Institute Energy & Telecommunications Policy Director Stephanie Chen. “As AT&T tries to merge its ISP operation with an entertainment company, it will spend less on improving and expanding its infrastructure and increase digital redlining across the country. Additionally, the merger will give AT&T even greater power to decide what television and movies get made, likely resulting in fewer opportunities for writers, directors and actors of color.”
“This merger would cement AT&T’s role as a gatekeeper of the internet,” said New America Open Technology Institute Policy Counsel Joshua Stager. “That’s bad for consumers, small businesses and democratic values. AT&T has a long track record of fighting Net Neutrality, deceiving customers, and funding efforts to kill municipal broadband. Government regulators should not allow such a poor steward of the open internet to further consolidate its grip on the market.”
“We should all be concerned about AT&T’s dangerous plan to take over Time Warner,” said Presente.org Executive Director Matt Nelson. “Functional, affordable internet and unbiased media are essential to the success and well-being of Latinx communities nationwide. This corporate hegemon, if realized, would lead to higher prices, less diversity in ownership and programming, and poorer service overall. We have converged to stop previous attempts by AT&T and their ilk to consolidate power for themselves at the expense of our communities, and we’re prepared to do it again.”