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Today's BCAP Headlines

The Justice Department and AT&T Inc. traded legal jabs Thursday as a federal judge opened proceedings on whether the telecom giant’s planned purchase of Time Warner Inc. violates antitrust laws. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said little while the government and the companies spent about 90 minutes of opening arguments attacking the opposing side’s legal position. The Justice Department, which is seeking to block the $85 billion deal, said the merger could mean at least $400 million in pay-TV price increases because AT&T, which owns the DirecTV satellite service, would have newfound marketplace leverage if it folds in Time Warner’s stable of programming, including the Turner networks and HBO. “If the merger goes forward, consumers all across America will be worse off as a result,” said Justice Department lawyer Craig Conrath. AT&T and Time Warner lawyer Daniel Petrocelli called the government’s claims “preposterous” and “dead wrong,” saying the case was simple because the Justice Department couldn’t offer proof that the deal would lessen competition. “It is a case where there is only one just, clear-cut outcome, and that is to deny the government’s case to block this historic merger,” Mr. Petrocelli said. The fireworks came on the first official day of a trial that could take six to eight weeks.

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