Thursday, March 30, 2006

Enshrining "need" as a virtue

You have to love the ability of antitrust regulators to find the "abuse of market power" almost anywhere. This report is from Europe:

The European Union closed a long-standing antitrust dispute with England's Premier League on Wednesday, forcing one the of richest leagues in the world to stop selling the rights to its live soccer matches exclusively to one TV channel.

"The solution we have reached will benefit football fans while allowing the Premier League to maintain its timetable for the sale of its rights," said EU Antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes, after the EU executive finalized the deal between both sides.

Under the agreement, live TV rights will be sold in six balanced packages with no one bidder being allowed to buy them all.
But why do this? The answer rests below.

British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC -- a pay channel owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch -- has held the exclusive rights to the richest broadcast contract in European sport for the past 13 years. The satellite broadcaster dominates Britain's pay-TV market with close to 8 million subscribers.

Kroes's office said the new commitments made until the end of the 2012-2013 season "will increase the availability of media rights, and improve the prospect of competition in providing services to consumers."

Packages will be sold to the highest standalone bidder for each package.
The agreement will allow the Premier League to prepare its bidding process for rights as of 2007. It will be monitored by a trustee named by the Commission.

"The Commission could impose a fine amounting to 10 percent of FA Premier League's total worldwide turnover if it breaks its commitments," the statement from Kroes's office said.

BSkyB's nearest rival, cable operator NTL Inc., has already said the deal does not go far enough to deliver a level playing field and said the EU head office had ignored the "pubs and clubs" market which it said needed a critical mass of at least half of all matches to be economically viable.
Ah, NTL "needed" it-in fact, it "needs" even more.

So here we have a corporation enshrining its need as a moral claim upon all its competitors, yet how much do you want to bet that Rupert Murdoch and his British Sky Broadcasting Group oppose antitrust as such? I doubt I could even get one taker.

Let's face it, egoism is a radical position, even among billionaires.

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