Dept. Of Justice Takes Over Responsibility for Permitting Media Consolidation

  • Dept. Of Justice Takes Over Responsibility for Permitting Media Consolidation
    The DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission have finalized their agreement to allow the DOJ to exclusively review and approve media mergers for antitrust. Originally this was a back-room deal until the Senate Commerce Committe Chair Sen. Hollings got wind of it. He’s still pissed that it’s happening without congressional approval, telling Broadcasting and Cable that “I believe this is in violation of appropriations law, which states that we be consulted.” Since Hollings also chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, he might still be able to sabotage this deal.

    Many public interest groups are unhappy with this deal since the DOJ has a history of going easier on anti-trust reviews than the FTC. Worries are doubled under the Bush administration given Attorney General John Ashcroft’s tendency to bend over for big business at the turn of a hat. In their statement on this deal, the Center for Digital Democracy said,

    “Given the Bush administration’s apparent support for massive media deregulation, one can only surmise that today’s announcement sends a strong signal to big special interests that they will get easy treatment. Unfortunately, key issues involving free speech, journalism, media competition, and the fate of a non-gatekeeper controlled Internet are now likely to get short shrift.”

    And there’s yet another political economic wrinkle in this. It should be no secret that politicians who support a given industry’s will and profits tend to receive enormous support from that industry. So, don’t be surprised if the Bush admin receives even more softball reportage and “patriotic” flagwaving support from the likes of AOL/TimeWarner/Turner, FOX and Disney as a result of this deal. Which principle do we really think is stronger: “serve the public interest,” or “don’t bite the hand that feeds you?”

    Other articles on this change:

  • Wall Street Journal: “Justice Department, FTC Unveil Scheme for Oversight of Mergers”
  • Washington Post: “Justice, FTC Split Duties On Antitrust”

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