×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Smaller Cable Operators Propose Remedy for AT&T-Time Warner Merger

WASHINGTON — The American Cable Association, representing smaller multichannel video providers, is proposing a remedy to address what it sees as competitive harms from AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner.

In a filing with U.S. District Court in D.C., ACA and one of its members, RCN Telecom, outlined a plan in which carriage disputes over Time Warner content can be settled in arbitration, with similarities to the conditions imposed on Comcast’s combination with NBC Universal in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said he will announce his decision on the merger on June 12, following a six-week trial.

The Justice Department sued to block the transaction in November, claiming that AT&T will gain increased leverage to extract price increases from distribution rivals for networks like CNN, TBS and TNT. After the lawsuit was filed, Time Warner’s Turner networks offered to go into binding “baseball-style” arbitration with AT&T’s rivals in carriage disputes. It prohibits Turner’s networks from being pulled off the air during the arbitration process.

In the filing, ACA and the other cable operators said that the arbitration offer was “completely insufficient to address the harms.”

Instead, they want a remedy in which arbitration would cover all programming managed by a combined AT&T-Time Warner, instead of just Turner networks. They also outline a series of other provisions, including allowing smaller distributors to use a bargaining agent in arbitration; requiring greater information sharing before final offers are made; prohibiting retaliation against broadband subscribers of AT&T rivals; and providing a chance to the arbitration remedy after a few years for modification and even extension.

At one point in the trial, Leon asked whether a modified arbitration would be a more palatable merger remedy.

In their filing, ACA and RCN say that they are “concerned that the remedies proffered in this case by the parties present an all-or-nothing choice, with no middle ground, and the parties overstate their claims that the Court has limited authority and discretion to impose another solution.”

The Justice Department said that if Leon finds that the merger violates antitrust law, he should propose only structural remedies, in which AT&T-Time Warner have to exclude assets from the transition, like the Turner networks, or divest others, like DirecTV.

AT&T-Time Warner say that their arbitration offer is not a remedy but a “commitment,” and that it should be considered by Leon as he assesses the impact of the merger.

Update: AT&T-Time Warner, in its own filing, oppose the filing.

“RCN’s participation as amicus is especially unwarranted because, as the motion acknowledges, RCN’s Chief Executive Officer James Holanda already testified at trial,” the companies said in a brief filed on Tuesday.

They said that the brief presents opinions Holanda already expressed, but “to the extent the brief asserts additional views, it is an impermissible effort to expand the factual record, while shielding its newly-stated opinions and criticisms from the clarifying scrutiny of cross-examination.”

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

  • President Donald Trump waves as he

    Trump Holds Fundraiser in Hollywood's Backyard

    President Trump paid a visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday, as part of a West Coast fundraising swing expected to raise $15 million. Trump is set to appear at a dinner at developer Geoffrey Palmer’s house in Beverly Hills, where tickets range from $1,000 to $100,000 for VIPs. Though set in Hollywood’s backyard, the event [...]

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image Debate Ad

    ABC Runs Debate Ad Showing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image

    ABC aired an ad during Thursday’s Democratic debate that depicted a burning image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and likened her politics to those that caused the Cambodian genocide. New Faces GOP funded the ad, which features Elizabeth Heng, a Republican who lost a bid for a Fresno-area congressional seat last year. Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, [...]

  • Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

    ABC News' Democratic Debate Lacked Energy and Purpose

    At long last, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren were on the same stage. And the result was a long and fairly dull evening. After two Democratic Party debate stages in which the field of candidates had been bifurcated — splitting, in both cases, the perceived frontrunners from the establishment and insurgent [...]

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden responds

    Protesters Interrupt Joe Biden During Democratic Debate

    Protesters interrupted presidential candidate Joe Biden during Thursday’s democratic debate. The chants came nearly two and a half hours in as moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the former vice president about any professional setbacks he’s faced and how he recovered from them. “We’re going to clear the protesters,” Stephanopoulos said as the chants began. “We’re sorry.” [...]

  • Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren,

    Dems Debate in Houston: Moderates Push Back on Medicare for All

    The third Democratic debate on Thursday was billed as the first showdown between the top contenders: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden did challenge the liberal senators on health care early in the debate, which was broadcast on ABC. He asked repeatedly how they would pay for their multi-trillion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content