Regulators Abandon Plan On Media Mergers

By: Todd Shields

(Mediaweek.com) The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, under pressure from a powerful U.S. senator, have abandoned a plan that sent oversight of media mergers to the Justice Department, officials said Tuesday.

The agencies in January had announced the change as part of a broader shift of merger-review powers, but ran into opposition from Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.). Hollings said the FTC would better protect consumers than Justice’s antitrust lawyers.

The agencies said the change would end squabbling over which reviews mergers, and would ensure that officials with the most experience in media matters would handle media mergers.

Hollings threatened to slash both agencies’ funding. They announced their shift in letters delivered late Monday to the Senate, Hollings’ office said.

“I think it’s appropriate they abandoned this agreement,” Hollings said. “The FTC has broad discretion to protect consumers in merger reviews, whereas the Justice Department is looking for crime. The FTC protects the public interest.”

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