Rural America Supports The AT&T/Time Warner Merger, Trump Doesn’t

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

While President-elect Donald Trump is opposed to a potential AT&T/Time Warner merger, many Trump voters support the move.

AT&T made a bid to purchase Time Warner, Inc. Oct. 22 for $107.50 per share, or $85.4 billion, in a move that would transform the American telephone company into one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. Politicians in Washington, D.C., and the president-elect were quick to criticize the deal, alleging it would be a disaster for consumers as it would create a hegemony in the media marketplace crowding out other companies and eliminating competition.

“AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump said to a crowd in October in Gettysburg, Penn. (RELATED: Even Bernie And Trump Agree On The AT&T Merger)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that the next administration should “kill Time Warner/AT&T merger. This deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people.”

One might think that independent television companies would be concerned, even frightened, by the potential marriage of AT&T and Time Warner. Interestingly, the chief executive of Rural Media Group, Inc., one of the nation’s leading providers of multimedia content to those living in the rural U.S., has come out in full support of the merger.

Patrick Gottsch is the founder and CEO of Rural Media Group, an independent media company that provides television service to 52 million American homes and more than 100 million worldwide. Gottsch has made it his professional and personal mission to connect the city with the country by providing quality media content.

The chief executive testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday, expressing his support for the deal and articulating why it is beneficial for the majority of the American media consumers. “I support the AT&T-Time Warner transaction, and urge its rapid approval,” Gottsch told members of Congress.

He understands that mergers in business, not just in media, are a reality that “are just going to happen,” Gottsch tells The Daily Caller News Foundation. While no one cannot predict which companies will try to scoop up other firms, one can look at how the purchasing company treats its consumer base.

“AT&T is one of the leading providers in serving rural America. When they launched Direct TV now, they included our TV in their package. They include rural America,” Gottsch tells TheDCNF.

His reasoning for supporting the merger is not simply because AT&T included his company in their package, but because he is against media companies taking advantage of those in rural America.

Gottsch came to Washington in 2014 to speak out against the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, after Comcast “made clear its intent to carry only urban-focused programming at the expense of rural America,” he tells TheDCNF. When Verizon made the decision to ax rural television from its lineup, Gottsch’s company took out full page advertisements in protest.

His viewers have filed over 200,000 complaints with the FEC, advocating for “more independent programming, including programming that serves the interests of rural America and senior citizens.”

“AT&T, under the leadership of Randall Stephenson, has made a commitment to expanding its services for rural America, and working to connect rural and urban America,” Gottsch explains. In his firm’s experience, “AT&T is honoring its commitment.”

Gottsch advised the committee “to carefully scrutinize” this merger, as it should for “each transaction,” but also said the committee should “give credit where credit is due.” In this case, that means “approving the AT&T–Time Warner transaction.”

Donald Trump was able to secure the presidency in no small part due to the support of rural America. Trump won 62 percent of the rural vote, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received just 34 percent, Pew Research reports.

The Trump win was proof that “rural America has value, rural America has clout,” Gottsch tells The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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