ACTIVISM UPDATE: AOL/Time Warner Merger Approved

On December 14, the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to approve the merger of Time Warner and America Online, creating the world’s largest media company. The deal was the source of intense lobbying by citizen groups like Consumers Union and the Center for Media Education, as well as major media companies like Disney and Microsoft; FAIR activists sent hundreds of letters criticizing the merger to the FTC.

On December 14, the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to approve the merger of Time Warner and America Online, creating the world’s largest media company. The deal was the source of intense lobbying by citizen groups like Consumers Union and the Center for Media Education, as well as major media companies like Disney and Microsoft; FAIR activists sent hundreds of letters criticizing the merger to the FTC.

In the end, some provisions of the deal were considered victories for consumers: For example, the consent decree requires that access to Time Warner’s cable lines be granted to at least three other internet service providers. High-speed internet access was the issue that FAIR’s January alert encouraged activists to raise with the FTC.

But larger questions about media diversity remain. The FTC did little to address concerns that the media giant would engage in extensive promotion of its own content, sometimes to the exclusion of other content. As the New York Times reports (12/15/00), “Beyond high-speed Internet service, the terms announced yesterday do little to impede AOL Time Warner.”

A Washington Post report (12/14/00) outlined some of the policies that are already in place: “AOL users who want to check out music or television reviews are steered to Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly Web site. If they want the latest news on celebrities their mouse will take them to Time Warner’s People.com. And AOL users who seek the latest developments in the presidential election will find that Time Warner’s CNN.com and Time.com are prominent options.”

The Post also reported that one AOL executive says that the cross promotions between the companies have generated 500,000 new Time Warner magazine subscriptions in just five months. It’s just the tip of the iceberg: As one industry analyst told the Post, “They have not yet begun to cross-promote.”

The merger certainly is a milestone in media concentration, and threatens to make the era of new media more rather than less centralized. The new corporation will certainly receive continued scrutiny from FAIR.

For more background and history on the merger, please visit: http://www.fair.org/media-outlets/time-warner.html

Author: FAIR

News Service: FAIR.org

URL: http://www.fair.org/media-outlets/time-warner.html