October 17, 2018 / 8:10 PM / in a month

Appeals court to hear U.S. Justice Department objection to AT&T deal on December 6

Smartphone with AT&T logo is seen in front of displayed Time Warner logo in this picture illustration taken June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 6 in the Justice Department’s fight against AT&T Inc’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner, the court said on Wednesday.

The merger, which was announced in October 2016, closed on June 14 after a U.S. district court ruled the deal was legal under antitrust law. The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to reverse that approval.

The core of the Justice Department’s concern is that AT&T, which owns DirecTV, would use its ownership of Time Warner’s content to make pay TV rivals pay more, thus raising their costs and forcing them to charge consumers more. The merged company includes CNN, a cable news station that is a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s ire.

AT&T has said it would manage Time Warner’s Turner cable television networks as part of a separate business unit until February 2019 or the conclusion of the government’s appeal.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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