From time to time, some expert will predict that television is about to go the way of newspapers and music: disrupted by technology and broken into its constituent parts, with the dollars that used to flow like a mighty stream magically reduced to little droplets of digital dimes and pennies.

And yes, it may happen someday. But the news that AT&T will seek to buy Time Warner for $85 billion shows that it’s not going to be soon. The executives who run the major telecom and television companies are proving to be tough, wily, and ready for a long battle. Compared to the genteel folks in the news and music industries, these guys are like the Medellín cartel.

It’s outrageous, of course, and it may never happen. As Matthew Yglesias points out at Vox, the deal is political poison. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the best frenemy of our likely next president, Hillary Clinton, will not be silent. Clinton's former nemesis, Senator Bernie Sanders, has come out against the deal as well. Craig Moffett, a media research analyst, told Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times that the deal has only a 50-50 chance of passing muster with federal antitrust regulators.

The specifics of the AT&T deal are bad enough, as it would unite the second-largest wireless provider with a major producer of content. Time Warner’s properties include HBO, TNT, TBS, the CW, Warner Bros., CNN, and a share of Hulu. But never mind the specifics. What this represents is vertical integration run wild, with the distributors of content controlling the content itself.

As Hiawatha Bray noted in the Boston Globe on Monday, there was a time when movie studios were prohibited from owning theaters because of the danger that, say, a Paramount theater would refuse to show non-Paramount films. That practice was outlawed in the late 1940s, a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court.

These days, though, federal regulators allow all kinds of vertical integration. The AT&T announcement comes just a few years after the deal that allowed Comcast to buy NBC Universal. What’s next? Already there are predictions that Comcast will seek to buy T-Mobile and that Disney, which already owns ABC and ESPN, may make a play for Netflix. It’s an arms race, and consumers will be the losers.

Let’s not forget, too, that the fate of journalism is at stake. Over the weekend, Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, delivered an impassioned commentary in which he implored AT&T to ensure the network’s integrity if the deal is approved. “Owners like AT&T need to understand the news business and invest in it but most of all respect journalistic independence,” he said, adding: “When studies come out showing that Verizon has better mobile service than AT&T, the bosses should not be calling the editors here and trying to squash the story.”

What’s sad is that the internet did much to break up the media monopolies of years past—and now those monopolies may be reconstituting themselves in new ways. When I was covering the media for the Boston Phoenix in the 1990s and early 2000s, I wrote a number of articles about the dangers posed by our news organizations being controlled by a handful of corporate titans. The internet, though, fostered the rise of a new breed of independent journalism—from commercial sites like the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed to nonprofits such as ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity to thousands of smaller projects.

What will happen, though, in a media environment in which telecoms like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon use their stranglehold on internet access to control what we read, see, and hear? It is of some comfort that the media and technology behemoths of our age—Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft—often find themselves on the opposite side of the telecoms. But in the struggle to maintain independent media, we shouldn’t have to rely on one group of corporations fighting another.

A number of consumer advocates have already announced their opposition to the AT&T-Time Warner deal. Among them: Free Press, a Northampton-based media-reform project that helped lead the battle to preserve net neutrality. Candace Clement of Free Press writes:

Deals like this don’t benefit ordinary people: They just line the pockets of overpaid media executives (the Time Warner CEO could walk away with as much as $400 million) and lead to job losses for working people. These kinds of mergers hike prices for internet access and put up bigger barriers to entry for content creators—shutting out independent voices and people of color who have been locked out of the traditional media system.

Donald Trump has already announced his opposition, and the ever-cautious Clinton has dispatched her running mate, Tim Kaine, to test the waters by expressing skepticism. One thing is for sure: This is likely to be the first major media issue for the next administration. Defeating it should be a top priority for anyone concerned about the future of media – and democracy, such as it is.