AT&T may have to dump CNN to get Time Warner deal approved

Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

"I didn't make that decision", Trump told reporters.

In the run-up to last year's election he vowed that as president his Justice Department would block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner.

U.S. authorities have told AT&T and Time Warner they must sell the CNN news channel or satellite operator DirecTV to get the green light for their merger, a source close to the deal told AFP on Wednesday.

Over the past year, another proposed merger has come under significant antitrust scrutiny: AT&T's $85.4bn deal Time Warner.

The official the president referred to was DOJ anti-trust chief Makan Delrahim, a Trump appointee who has threatened to block the deal in court unless AT&T sells off either Turner Broadcasting or its DirecTV service-the latter option impossible as it would undermine the entire basis of the merger.

AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up.

"If we feel like litigation is a better outcome then we will litigate", AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told the New York Times DealBook conference on Thursday.

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The corporate negotiations are political in part because Trump frequently calls out CNN as "fake news".

Some US commentators claim president Donald Trump - a severe critic of CNN - is behind the DoJ's alleged demands.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said in a separate statement that Trump "did not speak with the Attorney General about this matter, and no White House official was authorized speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".

Forcing a sale of CNN could harm the news network, if a buyer doesn't have the same deep pockets as AT&T and Time Warner to support newsgathering.

Gary Ginsberg has reportedly replied to Jared Kushner that Time Warner, CNN's parent company, would not be able to do that, The Wall Street Journal said, citing its sources.

Delrahim has said he was never given instructions by the White House on how to conduct his analysis. "It's illogical. It's why we did the deal", he said.

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