Today, Walt Disney Co. announced a deal to acquire significant programming assets from 21st Century Fox Inc. The deal would unite two substantial content companies and mark the second media mega-merger to face antitrust scrutiny next year. Public Knowledge contends that this merger may pose harms to competition and consumers by further consolidating must-have programming assets and major motion picture studios, and ultimately leading to consumers paying higher prices for video content.
Today, Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition, and Consumer Rights. His statement in the December 13 hearing on “The Consumer Welfare Standard in Antitrust: Outdated or a Harbor in a Sea of Doubt?” contends we need more than antitrust law to promote market competition that benefits consumers.
Recently there’s been a lot of noise about monopolies and antitrust in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission approved Amazon’s bid to buy Whole Foods in August, and Google was served with a record breaking fine by the European Union’s antitrust regulator in June. These stories have been fueling the buzz around competition policy discussions in the U.S. People are suddenly discussing the relevance of the Sherman Act, passed over 100 years ago. People are talking about whether there are “new monopolies” that these tech platforms could have on internet search, internet shopping, and more. But mostly, people are looking around and realizing that after waves of consolidation, the U.S economy has a few big players at the top -- and fewer options when they need to buy something be it online or in their hometown.
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger between internet-giant Amazon and Whole Foods, the original organic grocer. You may be surprised how quickly the merger passed regulatory muster, especially given the public’s desire for strong antitrust enforcement to promote vigorous competition and equity in our economy, including our digital one. You may be wondering: Is this a case of weak enforcement? Is it proof that today’s antitrust doctrine is useless for digital-age companies? Or are critics of growing digital market concentration simply wrong to express concern? My guess is “none of the above.” Here’s why.