News corp in 2016 consolidating the directv acquisition case study
Waves of consolidation in the technology, telecom and entertainment industries have concentrated power over media content and delivery into just a handful of companies.
Today, there are only a few dominant players in each industry: While these companies have vertically integrated themselves to staggering degrees in their industries, what’s worse is the increasing pace at which they have sought to consolidate horizontally across sectors.
Similarly, the two companies are also responsible for 70 percent of referral traffic for web publishers.
The consolidation of social media, web search and internet platforms among just a few players is central to this dominance in advertising: Facebook also owns the popular messaging app Whats App and the photo-sharing service Instagram, while Google owns the massive video platform You Tube.
But when then-candidate Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to block the merger, he explicitly linked it to CNN’s negative coverage of himself: “They’re trying desperately to suppress my vote and the voice of the American people,” he told supporters (Reuters, 10/22/16): As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.
Trump’s overt, ongoing hostility toward CNN complicates the Do J’s case against the merger, as the prospect of a president ordering antitrust action against a media company because he objects to the way it covers him raises serious First Amendment alarms.
One sign of a dysfunctional antitrust system is the revolving door for agency heads, civil servants and government officials who go to work for companies that they formerly regulated (or failed to regulate), either working for them directly or working for the large private law firms that represent them.
An egregious example is Obama’s first Do J antitrust chief, Christine Varney, who now works for Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the law firm representing Time Warner in the AT&T merger lawsuit.
AT&T’s bid to merge with Time Warner was blocked by the Justice Department on the grounds that AT&T, an internet service provider, could choose to favor media content owned by Time Warner—like its properties CNN, TNT and HBO—over that of its competitors, and ultimately increase prices for consumers.
His FCC has facilitated the continued consolidation of the majority of local television and radio affiliates under Sinclair Broadcasting (FAIR.org, 5/8/17), a conservative media conglomerate with closeties to the Trump administration that has been steadily increasing its share of local media markets since 2004.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s record on antitrust doesn’t look much different.
While Obama did block some consolidation efforts, including the mergers of AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as that of Comcast and Time Warner, many large media and technology mergers and acquisitions during the Obama years have resulted in corporate behemoths with the power to stifle innovation, discourage competition and increase prices.
These mergers and acquisitions include Comcast and NBC Universal, AT&T and Direc TV, Charter and Time Warner Cable, Facebook and Instagram, Facebook and Whats App, Microsoft and Linked In, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster, among many others.
Leibowitz and his fellow FTC commissioners rejected staff recommendations for antitrust action against the search giant.