Report: Trump Personally Sought to Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Despite claims to the contrary, President Trump wanted to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner — largely for political reasons, according to a report by The New Yorker.

According to the publication, which cited a “well-informed source,” Trump in 2017 called on former economic advisor Gary Cohn and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly to personally ensure that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the merger — which it did in November, citing antitrust concerns.

Trump, on the 2016 campaign trail, had said the merger would be bad for the country. According to the New Yorker, Trump’s decision was largely due to his dislike for Time Warner’s CNN news division, which he often called “fake news” in response to critical reports of his administration.

“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” a former unnamed official told the publication. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”

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When a U.S. federal court judge ruled in favor of AT&T, the DOJ filed an appeal, which was rejected last week by an appeals court. The merger resulted in the creation of WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

The intervention by the Justice Department raised eyebrows at the time as it represented the agency’s first since it successfully blocked AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011.

Indeed, The New Yorker stated Trump had no objection to 21st Century Fox’s $71.3 billion asset sale to The Walt Disney Co. by longtime supporter Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News business remains an influential media asset to the President.

Indie Random Media Issues Faux Doc ‘The Landing,’ About Apollo Mission That Never Was

Random Media, the independent film company launched by ex-Paramount Pictures home video chief Eric Doctorow, is hoping to capitalize on the “fake news” phenomenon.

Random on Oct. 2 releases on digital and DVD The Landing, a “documentary” about the disastrous Apollo 18 mission. The story takes place years after the mission’s controversial catastrophe that left two American astronauts dead and which marked the end of U.S. moon missions.

Fake news. There was no Apollo 18 mission. The Apollo program ran from 1961 until 1972 and resulted in six successful moon landings, with four more planned. The program ended, early, with the seventh attempt, by Apollo 17.

The Landing is the product of filmmakers David and Mark Dodson, who created the film first as a short and, years later, developed it into a full-length faux documentary, with the benefit of having the same actors recreating their roles.

A production of Los Angeles-based Rocket 66 Entertainment, The Landing was released theatrically by broadband distributor myCinema (  “The theatrical distribution marked a new era of digital cinema using myCinema to deliver high quality moving images via broadband into the theaters,” Random says in a news release.

Prior to its theatrical release, The Landing made waves on the 2017 film festival circuit, perplexing audiences and dividing opinions on what is fact and what is fiction.

The film racked up several honors at such prestigious film festivals as the Austin Film Festival (where it won the Audience Award and was named “An Official Buzz Film”), the Seattle International Film Festival (Official Selection and finalist, New American Cinema Competition), the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival (winner, Best Director), the Burbank International Film Festival (winner, Best Feature, Thriller) and Escape Velocity 2017 (winner, Best Feature).

The release coincides with the 60th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.

AT&T Reiterates Operating Turner Separate from WarnerMedia Pending DOJ Appeal

AT&T CFO John Stephens reaffirmed the telecom will continue to operate Turner Broadcasting System as a separate business from WarnerMedia.

Turner, which includes CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang and TruTV, had been included under the Time Warner corporate umbrella prior to latter’s $85 billion acquisition by AT&T.

With the Department of Justice appealing its federal court antitrust loss stopping the merger, AT&T said it would operate Turner separately until the appeal deadline on Feb. 28, 2019.

Speaking Sept. 10 at an investor event in New York, Stephens said that while Turner would historically operate under WarnerMedia – headed by John Stankey – it would remain independent until resolution of the DOJ appeal.

“While we have committed to running Turner as a separate business pending the appeal, we intend to move the results of some of our other network properties such as our regional sports networks under Turner when we report [third-quarter, ending Sept. 30] results,” Stephens said.

It’s been speculated that CNN, which has been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s “fake news” allegations, was the reason the DOJ filed its late antitrust litigation in the first place.

AT&T had sought to obtain communication between the White House and the DOJ regarding the case but was denied by the judge overseeing the case.

“This just continues what has been a very odd series of procedures by the DOJ,” Paul Sweeney, media analyst at Bloomberg, told The Dallas Morning News in July. “It’s perplexing to legal experts I’ve spoken to, and certainly investors.”

Meanwhile, Otter Media, the digital media company co-owned by AT&T and former 21stCentury Fox executive Peter Chernin, has been moved from AT&T’s entertainment group segment to WarnerMedia following the telecom’s acquisition of Chernin’s stake last month.

“We will continue to show financials at a reporting unit level for Turner, HBO and Warner for comparability purposes,” Stephens said.

Activist Investor Group Wants Zuckerberg Out as Facebook Chairman

Heading into Facebook’s disastrous fiscal second-quarter that saw the social network behemoth’s stock plummet more than 20%, wiping out almost $150 billion in valuation, investment group Trillium Asset Management drafted a proposal seeking to remove founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg as chairman.

Trillium, which has about $11 million invested in Facebook, seeks an independent chairperson – a move that requires approval by Facebook shareholders and management, which is largely Zuckerberg.

“[Zuckerberg’s] dual-class shareholdings give him approximately 60% of Facebook’s voting shares, leaving the board, even with a lead independent director, with only a limited ability to check Mr. Zuckerberg’s power,” wrote Trillium. “We believe this weakens Facebook’s governance and oversight of management. Selecting an independent chair would free the CEO to focus on managing the company and enable the chairperson to focus on oversight and strategic guidance.”

The investor claims Facebook has resisted recent shareholder requests to separate the chairman/CEO roles. In 2017, according to Trillium, a similar proposal received 51% of shareholder votes cast when excluding the shares of 13 executives and board members.

“However, the board has not acted on this important signal from its non-insider shareholders,” said Trillium. “Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and Twitter have separate CEO and chairperson roles. More broadly, 59% of the S&P 1500 separated these roles as of April 2018.”

Specifically, Trillium argues Zuckerberg dropped the ball on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections; sharing personal data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica; and sharing user data with consumer electronics device manufacturers, including China’s Huawei, which has been flagged by U.S. intelligence agencies as a national security threat.

The investor said Zuckerberg has done little to curbthe proliferation of fake newson Facebook; propagating violence in Myanmar, India, and South Sudan; and allegedly enabling advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

When called to testify before Congress following the Cambridge debacle, Zuckerberg admitted Facebook hadn’t taken a “broad enough view” of its social responsibility.

Indeed, Facebook July 27 revealed it had suspended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for 30 days after removing four videos by the “Infowars” founder. YouTube suspended Jones for 90 days.

“This broader view is what an independent board chair would provide, which we believe would benefit the company, its shareholders, and its global community of users,” Trillium wrote.