Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Antitrust News: If not the FCC, then the DOJ and FTC

It seems some members of Congress are not happy with yesterdays FCC re-regulation vote, and many of them are Republicans. According to Reuters:

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators opposed to television networks expanding their reach expressed confidence they had the votes to roll back a rule adopted by communications regulators on Monday.

The group said it was pressing ahead with legislation to retain limits keeping a network from owning stations that together reach more than 35 percent of the national audience.

The three Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission voted earlier on Monday against their two Democrat colleagues to raise the limit to 45 percent as part of a wider easing of decades-old media ownership rules.

But Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi told a news conference there was no partisanship in Senate opposition to the new cap.

"A lot of Republicans, in fact, probably most of the Republicans in Congress, would not agree with this decision," said Lott, the former Republican leader of the Senate.

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on media ownership where all five FCC commissioners are due to testify.

[. . .] Meanwhile, two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed "serious reservations" about the FCC decision and said future media mergers should get close scrutiny from antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission.

Sens. Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio, and Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, issued a joint statement saying the agencies should "stand guard to prevent deals which will substantially injure competition in these industries that are so vital in providing the news and information relied upon by millions of Americans."

DeWine and Kohl are the chairman and ranking Democrat on the panel's antitrust subcommittee, and they said they plan to hold a hearing on the FCC rule changes "to examine its implications for competition."
DeWine and Kohl would do better to hold a hearing to examine the implication of antitrust upon individual rights. Just why is it that a businessman can't own a "concentration" of media outlets? It's clear in this case that the free market demands consolidation and efficiency, but congressional leaders seem to think the free market has it wrong. Since when did the judgment of a handful of political leaders replace the judgement of millions of investors, businessmen, and consumers? The honest answer is the second it was held that one person's need for goods and services became a mortgage on the life of another.

A businessman works for his own sake, and if he sees an opportunity to make money by consolidating his business with others, he takes it, because not to is wasteful. That said, a businessman can't outlaw his competitors, nor can he outlaw substitutes to his products and services. How come then the actions of a businessman are conflated with those of a despot, while the actions of antitrust regulators are perceived as promoting freedom?

Until CAC's representatives are able to give testimony at one of these such hearings, you will never hear these basic, elementary questions asked of members of Congress.

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