For decades, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division has maintained that local broadcast television stations compete only against other broadcast television stations when analyzing mergers and other competition issues relating to the industry. This view no longer matches today's media marketplace. With the explosive growth of internet video and digital content along with the proliferation of cable and satellite television, broadcasters face intense competition for viewers and local advertising dollars. Yet, the DOJ's outdated viewpoint stifles broadcasters' ability to achieve efficiencies to allow them to best serve audiences with the high-quality entertainment programming and locally-focused news, weather and sports they have come to expect. It is well past time for the DOJ to update its regulatory policies to reflect the realities of the 21st century media market.
As a direct result of the DOJ's narrow view of the media marketplace, broadcasters face strict limitations in acquiring stations and taking advantage of important economies of scale. This skews the competitive playing field because large tech companies such as Facebook and Google, giant pay-TV providers such as AT&T/DirecTV and online video providers like Netflix and Amazon are not subject to comparable limitations. Yet, broadcasters compete with all of them for local viewers and advertising dollars. Neither consumers nor advertisers believe that local TV stations are their only options for accessing content or placing advertisements:
The bottom line:
The DOJ should recognize what broadcasters, cable and satellite providers, internet services, advertisers and consumers already know: technological advances have transformed the media landscape. As part of its pending review of the local TV ownership rule, the Federal Communications Commission is reexamining how it defines the relevant market. The DOJ similarly should reevaluate its approach for defining the market and evaluating competition when reviewing TV station mergers.
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