Larry Downes: “Is Disney Moving Too Fast On Fox Takeover? Don’t Ask Antitrust Regulators” (Forbes)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Department of Justice appears to have changed its mind again about the risks of media mergers. After being brutally trounced in an ill-conceived lawsuit to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, the Department’s Antitrust Division has now approved Disney’s $71 billion plan to acquire the assets of 21st Century Fox. Fox shareholders will vote on Disney’s offer on July 27th, while a competing offer from Comcast awaits its own review by regulators.

In the failed attempt to block the Time Warner deal, some antitrust observers saw an expansive rewrite of the government’s view of potential consumer harms, in video content if not in all industries. But the quick approval of the Fox deal, which should have raised at least one eyebrow under longstanding antitrust precedents and the Department’s own merger review guidelines, now suggests precisely the opposite. What’s going on? Is the DoJ simply licking its wounds after losing the Time Warner case? Or was that intervention an outlier, motivated by something other than a decision to return to the economics-free “big is bad” days of 19th century trustbusting?

Read more of Larry Downes’ op-ed at Forbes (new window).