By: Brooks Boliek
Antitrust Would Cover Any ‘Excesses’
(The Hollywood Reporter) Ted Turner may feel that the federal government should place
no limits on the AOL-Time Warner megamerger, but political leaders and antitrust
officials are expressing some wariness about the deal.
Turner, in Washington to announce arrangements for the National Cable Television Assn.’s
annual convention, told reporters that conditions are unnecessary because the government
can always take action if there are abuses.
‘In the event, if there are excesses, it can always be dealt with through antitrust
legislation,’ Turner said.
While lawmakers and antitrust officials refused to speculate over the fate of the $185
billion merger, they agreed that it deserves extra scrutiny because of its size and the
fact that the consolidated company combines telecommunications, entertainment and Internet
‘I have repeatedly expressed my concern that increased consolidation in the
(telecommunications) industries will decrease the number of information and entertainment
providers and may eventually erode competition in the so-called ‘marketplace of ideas,’
said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) chairman of the Senate’s antitrust panel.
DeWine and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) pressed the point with two of the nation’s top antitrust
officials during a hearing examining enforcement of the nation’s antitrust laws.
‘I am concerned about concentration in the media,’ Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert
Pitofsky said. ‘We were concerned when we dealt with Turner-Time Warner a couple of years ago.
In that merger, we insisted on an order designed to protect access by smaller companies and
While Pitofsky emphasized the agency’s record on ensuring access, he said he was unsure if the
merger would cause problems in those areas. The FTC will decide whether the AOL-Time Warner
deal passes antitrust muster.
‘I do look at these megamergers with heightened concern,’ he added.
Joel Klein, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, said his agency also wants to ensure
that access to different sources of information is not curtailed by telecommunications
mergers. Such mergers should be examined with an eye toward increasing the ways information can
get to American homes and businesses.
‘We’ve got to get lots of methods of access to the home,’ he said.
That is exactly what has been happening with deals like AOL-Time Warner, Turner argues.
‘When it shakes down, at the end of the day, there will be seven or eight voices,’ Turner said.
‘That’ll be two times as many as when I started. Those will be the major voices, and there’ll be
a number of smaller voices.
‘The net net is (that) we will be way ahead,’ he added.
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