Antitrust/Media Consolidation Bleg
For some reason, I got thinking a little bit about antitrust law this afternoon, a subject on which I’m somewhat conflicted and about which my knowledge is definitely lacking. What I’m wondering is whether there’s a huge conflict between the theory behind antitrust regulation and antitrust regulation in practice (for purposes of this bleg, I’m considering FCC media consolidation rules as included in antitrust regulation; media consolidation-related stats are also the stats I’m most interested in here).
Specifically, what I’m wondering is:
How often does the government actually wind up preventing a merger vs. how often does it permit it with restrictions vs. how often does it attempt to intervene but nonetheless permit it without restrictions?
My assumption is that the second category is by far the largest category, and that it is fairly rare that the government outright blocks a merger.
So the hypothesis is that antitrust laws (and especially media consolidation rules) actually don’t do a lot to prevent monopolization or consolidation while simultaneously granting the government direct control of the industry in question. In the case of media consolidation, the effects on First Amendment freedoms, open government, and the media’s willingness to commit journalism would be particularly grave. If true – and I honestly have no idea if the evidence supports it – then from a libertarian’s perspective, an outright prohibition of a merger would be superior to most circumstances under which merger would actually be permitted, while from a liberal’s perspective, a government refusal to intervene at all would in most circumstances be preferable to a government decision to intervene.
Again, I’m even less familiar with these areas of the law than probably a lot of non-lawyers, so if this hypothesis is completely absurd for any reason, including any unstated assumptions I’ve made, then I’ll have no problem being told so.