Rupert Murdoch twice discussed buying cable network CNN with the chief executive of AT&T

Francesca Washtell
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Murdoch is reportedly interested in buying CNN, which has become a hurdle in the AT&T-Time Warner tie-up (Source: Getty)

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch spoke with AT&T's chief executive twice in the last six months about CNN, according to new reports that follow rumours he is interested in buying the cable network.

The News Corp executive chairman telephoned AT&T's Randall Stephenson, two sources told Reuters, and, according to one source, Murdoch offered to buy CNN in both conversations. However, another source said Murdoch had "zero interest" in owning the network.

CNN has become a focal point in gaining competition approval for telecoms giant AT&T's $85.4bn (£64.7bn) bid to buy rival media giant Time Warner, which was announced last October.

The US Department of Justice, the country's antitrust regulator, is investigating the deal and has recommended that AT&T either sell its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit, which includes CNN, according to reports this week.

Read more: US watchdogs demand AT&T sell CNN to unlock Time Warner acquisition

Earlier this week reports emerged that AT&T offered to divest just CNN but the US Justice Department rejected the offer, according to Reuters. AT&T denied that selling CNN was under consideration.

AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up.

Representatives of Twenty-First Century Fox, AT&T and Time Warner, CNN’s parent, declined comment.

The European Commission granted approval for the deal in March.

During his presidential election campaign, US President Donald Trump attacked the merger and vowed that as president he would block the deal. Trump has previously attacked CNN for its coverage of his campaign and administration.

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