Congress members blast proposed Discovery WarnerMedia merger

More than 30 Democratic members of Congress are raising concerns about cable programming giant Discovery’s proposed $43 billion takeover of WarnerMedia, owner of CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network, and the Warner Bros. television and film studio.

LA Times reports that in a letter Monday to US Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland and Assistant Atty. Gen. Jonathan Kanter, the lawmakers said the proposed consolidation “raises significant antitrust concerns” and warranted increased scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, which Kanter now heads.

According to the report, Discovery is seeking to absorb WarnerMedia from telecommunications colossus AT&T, which bought the WarnerMedia assets three and a half years ago after a protracted battle with the U.S. Justice Department. The Discovery-WarnerMedia merger was announced in May and, until now, has encountered little turbulence as it has wended its way through the antitrust review process.

Monday’s letter represents the first major pushback against the deal in the U.S.

“The merger threatens to enhance the market power of the combined firm and substantially lessen competition in the media and entertainment industry, harming both consumers and American workers,” according to the letter, which was primarily drafted by four lawmakers — Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Nearly 30 other members of Congress signed on to the letter, including. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance).

WarnerMedia and Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav have previously argued the deal is not anti-competitive. They have noted that Discovery is much smaller than WarnerMedia and will not reduce the number of Hollywood studios because Discovery does not own its own movie studio or a major TV studio that focuses on scripted content. Discovery owns such channels as Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Food Network and the popular HGTV. (Discovery declined to comment Sunday.)

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