Senate to Vet Competition Enforcement

Assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim and Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons have been lined up for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee's antitrust subcommittee Oct. 3 as Washington continues to drill down on competition in the digital age.

Delrahim is leading the suit against the AT&T-Time Warner deal, and his division was the one that had competition issues with the since-canceled Sinclair-Tribune merger, though they appeared to be cureable had Sinclair restructured its station spin-offs.

Simons next month is launching a series of hearings on consumer and competition protections in a high-tech world. Simons, former head of the FTC's Bureau of Competition Policy, said of the hearings that they would "consider whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, and international developments warrant adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities, and policy."

That re-think has also been driven by the spotlight on big edge providers like Google and Facebook and issues like fake news, Russian election meddling, and information privacy and sharing.

Delrahim has outlined some fundamentals of his antitrust philosophy. 

In a June speech to the Open Markets Institute, he said that the consumer welfare standard should continue to be the antitrust review North Star, and that it was dangerous to stray into basing antitrust decisions on "what would be good or bad for our democracy, or for values like the free speech the First Amendment protects."

"Whether it’s the Kochs or George Soros or anyone else, political positions should have no role in determining the propriety of antitrust enforcement actions," Delrahim added. "If we take antitrust down the path of considering who is funding Ayn Rand lectures, or the Clinton Foundation for that matter, we will have taken a dramatically wrong turn, in my view."

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.