Bad 'political optics' for Trump in clearing Disney-Fox deal

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WASHINGTON A deal between Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox may put US antitrust enforcers in an awkward position following the government's challenge to a similar mega-deal.

The US$52 billion (S$70 billion) deal would give Disney the Fox television and film studios, as well as international TV operations and US cable entertainment and regional sports channels from the empire created by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who would maintain control of the Fox News Channel that supports President Donald Trump.

But complicating any review is the well-known friendship and political ties between Mr Trump and Mr Murdoch.

And the deal comes just weeks after the Justice Department filed suit to block AT&T's proposed US$85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, owner of Trump nemesis CNN.

"The political optics look bad," said Mr Larry Downes, of the Georgetown University Center for Business and Public Policy. Government antitrust regulators "are supposed to operate independently of the White House", he said.

Both mega-deals stem from the need for "legacy" media groups to compete against Netflix and streaming video firms.

Law professor Christopher Sagers, a senior fellow at the American Antitrust Institute, said that if the president offers a "quid pro quo" in which he would ensure approval of the deal as long as Mr Murdoch held onto Fox News, "it would be very improper". - AFP.