In a statement Sunday at a campaign stop, Barack Obama made it clear that he does not want to continue the Bush policy of ignoring, or advancing, corporate collusion, consolidation, and other anti-competitive activity.
Obama: “We’re going to have an antitrust division in the Justice Department that actually believes in antitrust law. We haven’t had that for the last seven, eight years.”
Obama specifically cited the media as an example of an area that warranted scrutiny with regard to anti-trust behavior, although the scope of his comment was much broader. He has previously addressed media consolidation via his support of the Media Ownership Act of 2007, and an op-ed he co-authored with Sen. John Kerry:
“In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented consolidation in our traditional media outlets. Large mergers and corporate deals have reduced the number of voices and viewpoints in the media marketplace.”
Taking a hard-line on matters that impact the media’s ambition to grow unrestricted has historically proven to be fraught with risk. Ask Howard Dean. If Obama intends to pursue this issue in the campaign, and in the White House, he better be prepared for the battle. Liebling’s lament that, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” has evolved in the electronic era into, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own a massive, vertically integrated, publishing, broadcasting, and Internet monopoly.”
The media can be a dangerous enemy, and any effort to take it on must be approached with an awareness of what’s at the other end of the tail you’re hanging onto.