Murdoch Reportedly Twice Discussed CNN With AT&T CEO

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Back in February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Jared Kushner had spoken to a Time Warner executive to express "the administration's deep concerns about CNN's news coverage... what Mr. Kushner feels is unfair coverage slanted against the president".

Trump's comments have provoked concern that he may improperly influence the Justice Department to block the deal.

Until recently the vertical deal - which in theory should not reduce competition among the two companies' direct rivals - was considered by antitrust experts as likely to be approved with no major concessions.

Kushner reportedly filed complaints to CNN executives on a regular basis during the campaign, and was particularly displeased with its fact-checking, which, according to The Journal, prompted Kushner to call CNN president Jeff Zucker to say that members of the Trump campaign would not appear on the network.

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The Justice Department has raised the prospect with AT&T that it divest one of two assets to get clearance for the merger, people familiar with the negotiations have said: CNN parent Turner, which also includes cable networks such as TBS and TNT; or AT&T's DirecTV satellite TV unit. Stephenson, however, made it clear that AT&T was prepared to fight attempts to block the deal. The consumer group opposes the deal and media consolidation in general. Brian Schatz of Hawaii have said the Justice Department must demonstrate that it's not acting against the merger for political reasons.

AT&T also said it would invest an additional $1 billion in the United States next year if Trump signed into law the provisions in the current House of Representatives tax bill.

Stephenson twice said the cable channel was not on the table. A further sticking point in discussions is the length of time that the US government wants to impose conditions on what AT&T can and cannot do after a deal.

The news comes amid AT&T's possible $84.5 billion merger with Time Warner, which owns Turner Broadcasting's CNN. The Justice official said no decision on the deal has been reached yet and that conversations continue.

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Delrahim has said he prefers "structural" changes to a deal, like selling off assets, rather than having the government monitor a company's promises to abide by certain conditions, as was done with Comcast.

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Wednesday he opposed the mega-merger but was also anxious about political implications of any divestiture of CNN.

"Before this people were saying anything could go through because Trump would be a rubber stamp", said Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst at New Street Research. "Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation".

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