34,000 Black Churches of the National Black Church Initiative Join With President Trump To Oppose The AT&T/Time Warner Merger
Washington, DC – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, is joining with President Trump to oppose the AT&T merger. “As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, 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 during a speech.Trump told a friend in the last few weeks that he still considers the merger to be a bad deal, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversation was private. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is also opposed to the deal, another person said.
Rev. Anthony Evans President of the National Black Church Initiative says, “We see this merger as a power move by AT&T just to take over consumer access on the technological side and limit their choices in terms of content. If one company is controlling that much content we will never experience the diversity of suppliers and producers and it also gives them too much power. One of the most important reasons why we have proposed this merger is because they are going to raise the rate on low income moderate and upper middle families who are on a tight budget. Who would have ever suspected that we would end up paying between cable and phones some 30% of our monthly income? This is morally outrageous the national black church initiative 34,000 churches oppose this vehemently and will do everything in our power to stop it.”
NBCI’s purpose is to partner with major organizations and officials whose main mission is to reduce racial disparities in the variety of areas cited above. NBCI offers faith-based, out-of-the-box and cutting edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science based strategies and techniques, and methods that work.
These are the points illustrating our stance on the merger.
1. The current merger talks between AT&T and Time Warner will cost NCBI 15.7 million members in both rural and urban communities who are connected to either one of this companies an 18% increase in their bill and expose them to identity theft. Currently NBCI members are paying up to 22% of their monthly income on phone and internet related services. If this merger gets through without proper oversight and they will have to recover any losses they incur, NBCI members and others will have to cover these hidden costs. In addition, the merger doesn’t speak to the many new products they are planning to roll out that will impact NBCI members. Thus, NBCI members will pay an average of 22-25% of their monthly income. The vast majority of NBCI members are on a low income and fixed budget and this will add an undo burden to their current economic state. This merger is going to cost of members tens of millions of dollars and this is morally unfair. AT&T will be merging these two big companies, valued at 68 billion dollars, off the backs of the poor.
2. Another strong objection will be that our members will be paying for mediocre internet services over AT&T’s networks depending on their geographical location. This issue is particularly pressing for members in areas in which AT&T is their only choice for provider. According to Harvard University Law School professor, Susan Crawford, this deal “leaves two-thirds of Americans with at most one choice for high-speed internet access…” and “residents in AT&T areas that don’t have the option of cable (or can’t afford it) will be completely stuck with AT&T’s unmaintained second-class services.” AT&T doesn’t face any real competition currently so consumers in these vulnerable areas will be burdened with unchecked price increases on unexceptional service.
3. Also, the acquiring of a content company, Time Warner, by AT&T means that AT&T customers who consume other content will face limited access to non-AT&T-owned content. Professor Susan Crawford explains, “It’s bad enough that the merger would lock in the current problem of Americans without adequate access. The new problem—the merger-specific problem the deal prompts—is that it will give AT&T even more of an incentive to beat up potentially competitive sources of content in a gazillion ways.”
4. According to David Morris an author for the Fortune magazine, “The deal’s risk to consumers is clear. Following its acquisition of DirecTV, AT&T is the largest pay TV operator in the US. It is also the second-largest wireless data provider and the third-largest broadband provider. That means AT&T controls a huge proportion of the bandwidth consumers use across multiple platforms. Buying a content producer like Time Warner would give it a big motive to make its own content faster or more accessible than competitors’. AT&T already has a built-in conflict of interest to favor its own stuff because it owns DirecTV and its programming contracts. Now it will have all of the Time Warner properties — including HBO and Warner Bros. — to protect and favor as well. This will happen not only in AT&T’s wired home market but also in its massive wireless business.”
5. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Michael Hiltzik says, “The proper template for considering this merger’s dangers is Comcast’s 2011 merger with NBC Universal. As we observed at the time, the benefits of the deal for the consumer were wholly imaginary: It wouldn’t ‘improve cable TV or Internet technology. It won’t by itself lead to more innovative or even more popular television programming. It won’t result in more efficient entertainment production.’ Rather, by concentrating economic power in fewer hands, it was almost certain to lead to less of all that. The same claims for consumer benefits made by Comcast and NBCUniversal had been made for all the media mega-mergers of the previous 15 years, involving Walt Disney Co., ABC, Viacom, CBS, Time, Warner Bros., CNN and AOL, among other companies. None of them came true.”
The question is: do we want to give such concentrated power to one company to control content, pricing, and access?
Our aim is to safeguard our members and ensure that companies do not take advantage of them. Recently, over 8000 of our members were taken advantage of by Wells Fargo and their fraudulent account rigging system. We don’t want this to happen to our members considering this merger. We would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you about our concerns so that you may speak with the leadership of the Black Church on how serious we take this issue.