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Joaquin Castro

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) wears a face mask during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing looking into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steven Linick on September 16, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Dems Urge DOJ Antitrust Probe Into $43 Billion Discovery-WarnerMedia Merger

"Giant corporations must not be allowed to stomp out competition, put up barriers to enter the market, and continue to exclude Latinos from the media industry."

Jessica Corbett

Nearly three dozen congressional Democrats revealed Monday that they are calling on the Biden administration to investigate the proposed $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia for antitrust law violations and whether it will reduce diverse content.

"Corporate consolidation and monopolistic practices come at the direct expense of workers, consumers, competition, innovation, fairness, and equity."

The 33 Democrats—led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) along with Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas), David Cicilline (R.I.), and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.)—made the request in a Saturday letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, head of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"The proposed merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery will not only lead to the enhanced market power of an already humongous company—it may also lead to less racial representation in the media and entertainment industry," Warren said in a statement. "We must stop harmful mergers, and the Department of Justice should thoroughly investigate this proposed merger to ensure diverse content and workers are protected."

Acknowledging President Joe Biden's executive action "to promote competition across the U.S. economy" as well as the DOJ's recent "efforts to underscore the importance of competitive labor markets," the letter says that "we wholeheartedly agree with the importance of protecting workers and pursuing economic justice through vigorous antitrust enforcement."

"Enforcement of our anti-merger laws is especially critical for workers from marginalized communities," the letter explains. "In the past, mergers across all industries have disproportionately led to job losses for workers identifying as racial and ethnic minorities compared to their white counterparts."

The lawmakers point to the Government Accountability Office finding that "the media and entertainment industry had a lower rate of Hispanic workers than any other sector," and a 2020 House Judiciary Committee hearing about the lack of diversity of people of color in the field.

They also express concern that—and urge the DOJ to investigate whether—the deal "will reduce the amount of diverse and inclusive media and entertainment content available to consumers," warning that "less diversity and inclusion on-screen and across the media industry leads to a perpetuation of harmful stereotypes."

Castro, who is of Mexican descent, noted Monday that "for far too long, Hollywood studios have excluded Latinos from opportunities in the industry, perpetuating dangerous stereotypes and inaccurate portrayals. Latinos are nearly 20% of the U.S. population, one-in-five Americans, but we're almost invisible on-screen and behind the camera."

"Giant corporations must not be allowed to stomp out competition, put up barriers to enter the market, and continue to exclude Latinos from the media industry," he continued. "Discovery and WarnerMedia need to demonstrate a real commitment to the widespread inclusion of Latinos and Latinas that is commensurate with their market participation."

Cicilline highlighted that "there already has been rampant consolidation" in the United States while Jayapal emphasized how "corporate consolidation and monopolistic practices come at the direct expense of workers, consumers, competition, innovation, fairness, and equity."

"As we learn more about WarnerMedia's $43 billion merger with Discovery," Jayapal said, "it is clear that the Justice Department must scrutinize whether this transaction violates antitrust law while also examining whether this corporate merger will further reduce diverse content in an industry that far too often excludes the voices, perspectives, talents, and ideas of Black, brown, immigrant, and Indigenous people."


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