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Pate: No Comcast-Net Probe Needed

President Bush's nominee to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division, R. Hewitt Pate, has said that at this juncture he has no plans to look into Comcast Corp.'s relationships with programmers following its merger with AT&T Broadband.

Pate, acting assistant attorney general for antitrust since last fall, submitted answers to written questions he received following his recent confirmation hearing.

Several questions, one of which cited a Business Week
story, raised the issue of Comcast and other MSOs having "undue market power over programmers." Pate was asked if the antitrust division has any plans to examine Comcast's behavior to ensure it remains within the proper bounds of antitrust law.

"The Division maintains an interest in ensuring that all companies, including Comcast, stay within the proper bounds of the antitrust laws," Pate said in his written responses. "If we receive information that leads us to believe that antitrust violation may have occurred we will conduct an appropriate inquiry and take whatever enforcement action may be warranted."

Answering an earlier question about whether he was concerned that increased concentration in the cable industry enables cable companies to have undue market power over programmers, Pate replied in similar fashion.

"Antitrust enforcers would be concerned if, through mergers that increased concentration, cable companies acquired market power over programmers that could lead to anticompetitive results," he said. "The division will examine any possibility that increased concentration will lead to monopoly power that could have an adverse effect on the economic incentives facing programmers."