19 March 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The US government’s trial against AT&T and Time Warner to attempt to stop their $85 billion merger is due to start in New York today.
But the first two days will be taken up by the judge,
Richard Leon, hearing objections to proposed evidence and he
will hear no arguments until Wednesday.
The full trial is now expected to last up to eight weeks,
running through to late May, he said at a pre-trial hearing
last week. At that heading Leon banned all electronic coverage
of the trial, and threatened anyone who tries to use
electronics with contempt of court.
The lawsuit was brought by the Department of Justice (DoJ),
which believes that, by acquiring content producer Time Warner,
AT&T will have a competitive advantage over other delivery
systems. At the same time, Time Warner will have preferential
access compared with other content providers, the DoJ
AT&T failed in an attempt in February to bring President
Donald Trump into the argument, because of his public
opposition to CNN’s news coverage: CNN is one of
the channels owned by Time Warner. A DoJ lawyer accepted at the
February hearing that "the president is unhappy with CNN" but
added: "AT&T wants to turn that into a get-out-of-jail-free
card for their illegal merger."
The trial was at first expected to last 10 days, and then four
weeks, and it has already delayed the completion date of the
proposed merger – originally expected in 2017. If
AT&T wins and the merger goes ahead, that is unlikely to
happen until almost two years after the company made the bid
for Time Warner.
Department of Justice,