John Oliver Chides AT&T and Targets FCC Over Robocall Rules

John Oliver answered the question industry insiders were asking last week as AT&T flexed its corporate muscle with a major shakeup of HBO and Turner management. The “Last Week Tonight” host didn’t hold back against parent company of HBO in the show’s main segment about efforts to establish tighter rules on robocalling.

Oliver ended Sunday’s installment by setting up a robocall program to target all five FCC commissioners with an automated call every 90 minutes urging them to support legislative efforts to curb such unwanted intrusions. He warned viewers of a push under way to narrow the definition of unsolicited automated calling that would make it easier for telemarketers and companies to bombard consumers with calls.

Oliver seemed to reference the speculation about how he would handle the new AT&T regime that emerged in business coverage of the HBO shakeup that saw longtime company leader Richard Plepler resign abruptly on Feb. 28.

“Johnny’s acting up, Johnny’s acting up again,” Oliver said while dance-wiggling in his anchor’s chair. “That’s right business daddy, you’ve inherited a problem child.” In the robocall story, Oliver directed a barb to AT&T by suggesting that the telco giant’s customers have to reach them via T-Mobile service or the calls will drop.

Oliver’s robocall to FCC commissioners urges them to act in the interest of consumers. The report featured a lengthy audio example of a robot voice engaging with a reporter for Time magazine. In the clip, the robot repeatedly responds “I am a live person” when the reporter tries unsuccessfully to get the bot to go off script.

“Hi FCC, this is John from customer service,” Oliver’s call begins. “Congratulations, you’ve just won a chance to lower robocalls in America today. … Sorry but I am a live person.”

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