Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Media Ignored Obama’s Comments on Industry Consolidation: Antitrust Group

This posting was written by John W. Arden.

Media networks have essentially ignored comments made by Senator Barack Obama about media consolidation in the U.S. and the lack of antitrust enforcement in the industry, according to the American Antitrust Institute (AAI), a non-profit education, research, and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

Senator Obama made “extended critical comments about the current state of U.S. antitrust policy” in response to a question while campaigning in Oregon on May 18. He stated an intention to increase enforcement of antitrust laws, particularly with regard to media consolidation.

“The AAI considers a presidential contender’s comments on antitrust policy or enforcement priorities to be newsworthy, especially given that these issues are not often directly addressed in [a] national political campaign,” said Albert Foer, president of the group. “Discussion of the media industry is especially important to individual citizens, who rely on this industry to stay informed.”

Despite the importance of this issue, a survey of 20 prominent newspapers found that not one either reported the comments or published a Reuters wire story on the issue, according to the AAI. The web sites of The New York Times and The Washington Post published another Reuters wire story about Obama’s remarks on antitrust policy, but neither mentioned media consolidation.

The comments were noted in an article about media industry consolidation on the web site of The Nation, a weekly magazine of politics and culture. The article (“Obama—Let’s Challenge the Murdochization of Our Media”) concludes with the following statement:

“Obama is tapping into the powerful and passionate view shared by millions of Americans that our current hyper-consolidated media landscape—with 90% of it controlled by some six corporations—is a disservice to a democracy which demands diverse voices and views."

The senator previously voiced his concern with antitrust issues in a statement to the AAI, released on September 27, 2007. The AAI had invited all presidential candidates to present their views on antitrust; however, only Obama and John Edwards responded.

In his statement, Senator Obama pledged “to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement” by stepping up review of merger activity, taking aggressive action to curb the growth of international cartels, monitoring key industries to ensure that consumers realize the benefits of competition, and strengthening competition advocacy domestically and in the international community.”

Text of that two-page statement appears here on the AAI website. Further details on the statement are featured in an October 1, 2007 posting on “Trade Regulation Talk.”

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