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WarnerMedia-Discovery merger faces scrutiny for lack of people of color in entertainment

The media merger, expected to be a massive $43 billion deal, received pushback by several congressmen who claim antitrust law concerns.

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Diverse media personalities may be at risk to receive less opportunities in the entertainment industry, says Congress with the latest AT&T WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, a buyout that’s been left on the table since May.

Democratic representatives cited antitrust laws and minority concerns in a letter on Tuesday as leading factors to their disapproval of the deal, following a similar pattern at a time where major media companies have been highly criticized by the government.

The leading lawmakers behind the effort to hold AT&T’s transaction accountable include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas); David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)

They, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland, requested for the U.S. Department of Justice to further investigate if the merger would go against executive order 14036 issued by President Joe Biden, which regulates competition within the U.S. economy.

Congressmen quoted that the order states, “excessive market concentration threatens basic economic liberties” and that the DOJ is asked to “enforce the antitrust laws fairly and vigorously and challenge transactions,” as support to their claims.

In the letter, members also voiced concerns about widening the gap of media jobs for people of color and how the deal might limit multicultural programming already available.

Controversy surrounding merging media companies is based on whether negative portrayal of people of color will persist on screen by creating more powerhouses in the country that denominate the content.

“Less diversity and inclusion on-screen and across the media industry leads to a perpetuation of harmful stereotypes,” the letter states. “For example, Latinos are most often portrayed as criminals, maids, or gardeners.”

According to a Reuters’ report released on Sept. 14, AT&T predicts a decision to be made by mid 2022. However, if the DOJ opens an investigation the deal may not come to a close until later next year.

John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, opposed the Democrats’ petition to block the buyout believing their concerns, as written, were misinformed.

“What’s been articulated in those letters is really unfounded,” Stankey said to The Hollywood Reporter.

Yet, some may argue that WarnerMedia should structure an in-depth equity and inclusion plan as the company only reported 12% of Asian and Black employees, 11% of Latinos, and as low as 3% of two or more races in 2020.

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