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WIMN Celebrates Defeat of AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

December 19th, 2011

As the Executive Director of Women In Media & News, I am elated to tell you that today marked the final nail in the coffin of the AT&T merger with T-Mobile. This is a huge media justice victory, and in an era of hyper-consolidation and media industry deregulation, a victory of this magnitude is rare.

In September, I represented WIMN at a lobbying meeting in Brooklyn, helping to educate Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) about the anti-competitive nature of the proposed merger. This is me and Rep. Clarke holding a “Stop the AT&T Takeover of T-Mobile” sign, standing with representatives from Free Press, Color of Change, and local community media makers:
Women In Media & News, Free Press and Color of Change with Rep. Yvette Clarke, September 2011

Had the merger gone through, we explained to Rep. Clarke, just two companies — AT&T and Verizon — would have controlled almost 80% of the wireless market. AT&T would have had unprecedented control over not only our phone communication but the Internet as well, since Americans (in particular, communities of color) increasingly access both through cell phones. And in addition to the massive job losses and increased prices that come with most mergers, the AT&T/T-Mobile merger would have posed a much broader threat to free speech and access to information online, as these companies have been active in efforts to oppose Net Neutrality and derail a free and open Internet. AT&T has a record of opposing free speech on its networks.

WIMN, Free Press, Color of Change and independent Brooklyn media-makers shared our concerns with Rep. Clarke that the merger would have jeopardized Americans’ ability to seek alternative sources of news, information and entertainment online — and would have had a particularly detrimental impact on low-income communities, communities of color, women, non-profit advocates and independent, non-commercial media makers’ ability to organize online and to tell our own stories online. We also discussed the disproportionate impact the inevitable higher prices and anti-competitive practices would have on our communities.

I made specifically clear that women as a constituency had much to lose if AT&T was allowed to gain monopolistic control over wireless communications. It is no secret that women and girls are the majority of the poor. Additionally, due to the gender pay gap, women in the labor market still face significant income inequality. Women of color face an even more severe economic burden, at the cross-section of gender and racial income inequality. Therefore, I told Rep. Clarke, the price-jacking that would inevitably accompany this merger would pose a disproportionate economic hardship on low-income women, who would be less likely to be able to afford cell phones, internet access and the like in an AT&T monopoly. Young women in particular rely on social media as a political organizing tool, and an AT&T/T-Mobile merger would jeopardize their ability to utilize this resource as readily as necessary. The less access women of all ages and background have to information online, the less women will be able to get support, share their personal and political struggles, and organize online to improve their communities’ health, environment, safety, educational systems, and more. And in certain cases, a decrease in cell phone access would pose a safety risk to women and children who face domestic violence within the home.

Women In Media & News is just one organization among a great many groups in the thriving media justice movement that worked to oppose this merger. In particular, Free Press, Center for Media Justice and MAG-Net (the Media Action Grassroots Network) all worked tirelessly to make sure this merger was defeated. Join me, WIMN, these organizations and the rest of the media justice movement in celebrating this hard-won victory!

EDITORIAL NOTE: I am late for a meeting so I had to hit “publish” before adding in links to the orgs listed above, or to back story about the merger. I will update this post with links late this evening, or tomorrow morning.

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