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FTC's Muris takes turn before Hollings

Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) continued to let agency heads know he's the boss
when he threatened Federal Trade Commission chairman Timothy Muris Tuesday with
job and budget cuts.

Hollings is angry with Muris and Charles James, assistant attorney general
for the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, for agreeing to new
merger-clearance procedures without first informing him.

Hollings' opinion matters in this arena, as he is chairman of both the Senate
Commerce Committee, which authorizes the FTC and the DOJ to receive money from
the federal government, and of the Appropriations Subcommittee that hands out
the money.

He told Muris some of the things Muris and James had done in making the
changes -- such as consulting outside attorney Joe Sims, who represented AOL
Time Warner Inc. when that company's merger was before the FTC -- were
'outrageous' and 'improper.'

'What we'll have to do, by God, is just cut that budget so we get their
attention,' Hollings said.

The committee is also studying whether it has the authority to cut salaries
and political positions. 'Sometimes when you cut pay, you get their final
attention,' Hollings said.

Hollings told Muris that if he and James went ahead with their new
merger-clearance plan -- in which the DOJ would review all media-related mergers
-- he would proceed with his threats.

After the hearing, Muris told reporters he hadn't changed his mind about
implementing the changes.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.