Mon, Jul 9th 2007 4:12pm
Reasonable people could disagree about when it's best to disallow a given merger on antitrust grounds, but our current system seems both arbitrary and open to manipulation by interested parties. Standing athwart XM and Sirius' attempt to merge is the National Association of Broadcasters, which has tried to make the claim that the merger would eliminate any competition for the companies, a point which is undermined by the NAB's own interest in the outcome. It's obvious why the NAB is interested: It's not that it has some lofty ideals about competition, but rather it fears for the future of its own members, should the companies be allowed to merge. In addition to making its arguments directly, the NAB has also turned to the practice of astoturfing, the establishment of phony grassroots organizations that are in fact nothing more than shill groups. Blatantly self-interested lobbying isn't just limited to the NAB, however. Lobbyists representing the satellite radio firms have cobbled together an odd coalition of supporters, including Southern Baptists, businesswomen, rural voters and Hispanic chambers of commerce. A representative of one group, Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE), tells The Wall Street Journal that her group supports the merger because it could allow for expanded radio coverage in rural areas. She also makes the good point that the government seems to have multiple standards depending on the industry, noting that little has been done to prevent consolidation in the meatpacking market (which directly affects WIFE's constituents). Her points are valid, but it's still disturbing that these issues are decided, in large part, by which side can marshal the necessary lobbying firepower, rather than some standard for what's a legitimate level of consolidation within an industry.
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