Democratic Sens. Propose Toughening Antitrust Laws

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, joined by other Democrats concerned about consolidation, has introduced a bill that would change antitrust laws to shift the burden of proof on merging parties to prove that their merger does not harm competition.

And it would be a high bar.

According to its sponsors, the bill, The Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act of 2017, would "clarify" that "mergers that increase consumer prices, lower the quality of goods, exclude competitors, undermine innovation, or allow a company to unfairly lower the prices it pays can be illegal."

Those are all characterizations that have been leveled at merging media companies in arguments against their deals.

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The bill would also "add the term 'monopsony' to the Clayton Antitrust Act so single buyers controlling the market are also illegal" and would "create an Office of the Competition Advocate to help consumers with complaints, encourage antitrust investigations, and analyze and publish reports on merger activity."

Joining Klobuchar were a Who's Who of media merger critics, including Sen. Al Franken, also from Minnesota; Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“Consumers today need more choice and competition, not more consolidation of colossal companies. This bill helps protect the public from harmful mergers by better evaluating the effects these deals will have on competition and prices," said Markey. "I look forward to working with Senator Klobuchar and the rest of my Senate colleagues to pass this important legislation."

That is highly unlikely in a Republican-controlled Congress, so the bill is more a shot across the bow than something headed for the President's desk.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.