Why More Antitrust Immunity for the Media is a Bad Idea

Maurice E. Stucke
University of Tennessee College of Law

Allen P. Grunes

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP

Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy

With their financial difficulties, some traditional media firms have called for greater leniency under the federal antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, in recent hearings inquired as to whether antitrust immunity is necessary for newspapers’ collaboration and under what circumstances, if any, antitrust immunity for certain joint conduct could be justified.

Our essay explores why relaxing the federal antitrust laws for traditional media will not help consumers or the marketplace of ideas. We discuss the past problems with antitrust immunity generally and for the media industries specifically. We address the failures of the Newspaper Preservation Act, how deregulation that followed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 failed to promote competition in the radio industry, and why further liberalizing the FCC’s cross-ownership rules to permit greater media consolidation will not promote competition in the marketplace of ideas.

We conclude that, because our democracy’s health depends on competition among traditional media, the cost of allowing already dominant firms to acquire the assets of their remaining competitors outweighs the benefits of looser antitrust laws.

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