Media Access Project, which opposes the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, has asked WUSA Washington to stop airing AT&T ads that make job and investment claims MAP strongly disputes.
That came in a letter to WUSA Monday, a copy of which was supplied to Multichannel News.
"AT&T's assertion in the spot that the proposed deal could create as many as 96,000 jobs and that its plan is to invest $8 billion in the combined company is inaccurate and misleading," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director for MAP. "I recognize that Gannett always has made sincere efforts to fulfill its legal obligation to operate in the public interest, and, indeed, takes great pride in the integrity and quality of its program service," he said, pointing to the FCC admonition that "with respect to advertising material, the licensee has the additional responsibility to take all reasonable measures to eliminate any false, misleading or deceptive matter."
AT&T has argued that the proposed $39 billion deal will be a net positive for investment, workers and consumers. It has the support of a number of unions, including the Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters.
"I call on you to cease running the AT&T messages in their current form," said Schwartzman in a letter to WUSA president and general manager Allan Horlick. The campaign is running on a number of outlets, so why WUSA? "We know the other stations will see the letter and act appropriately," Schwartzman told MCN. "It didn't seem necessary to write all four of them." He said they e-mailed the letter to Horlick's office and had gotten phone confirmation of its receipt.
"How odd for a group called the Media Access Project to be working to limit media access. Or free speech rights," said "Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice presiden, external and legislative affairs, in a statement in response to the news of the letter.
"AT&T has a First Amendment right to give inaccurate information to the public, but MAP has a First Amendment right to call them on it," countered Schwartzman in a statement.
Horlick was not immediately available for comment.