Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-CA), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have written a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter urging them to look into Warner Bros. Discovery, the new media conglomerate that was formed last year after WarnerMedia and Discovery decided to combine forces in 2021 in a deal worth $43 billion. One portion of the letter claims that the company’s market share has enabled it to “harm workers and heighten barriers” in the media and entertainment industry, while another discusses some of the fallout from the merger, which is said to include the loss of hundreds of jobs, including those cut from CNN’s streaming platform. The lawmakers also brought up the cancellation of the live-action Batgirl movie, citing a report that claimed Warner Bros. Discovery terminated the $90 million project for tax break purposes.
From a castro.house.gov press release:
In May 2021, AT&T and Discovery Inc. announced an agreement to spin WarnerMedia off from AT&T and initiate a merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery to create Warner Bros. Discovery, a new entity. In response, Reps. Castro, Cicilline, and Jayapal and Senator Warren led nearly 30 members of Congress in a letter to the Department of Justice expressing concerns that the proposed merger could lessen competition for diverse talent and content in affected industries. Despite this warning, federal regulators cleared the companies to move forward, and the merger was finalized on April 8, 2022.
In the wake of the merger, the newly-formed Warner Bros. Discovery faced extensive criticism for lack of diverse leadership, cancellation of content with diverse voices and storylines, elimination of the Stage 13 content studio, which focused on stories and creators from underrepresented communities, and extensive layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. In January 2023, the Writer’s Guild of America published a bulletin titled “How the Warner Bros. Discovery Merger Hurts Workers and Diversity,” which criticized the “ill-advised merger” as “a clear disaster for the content creators who have lost jobs and a potential employer, as well as for the consumers who are faced with a poorer, less-diverse content landscape.”