Meetings planned for Wednesday between the staff of Senate Commerce Committee
chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and officials from the Federal Trade Commission
and the Department of Justice were postponed for one day due to schedule
conflicts, Hollings spokesman Andy Davis said.
Hollings called in officials after FTC chairman Timothy Muris and Assistant
Attorney General Charles James tried to change the two agencies'
merger-clearance procedures last week, giving authority over all media and
telecommunications mergers exclusively to the DOJ's antitrust division, without
first running the plan by Hollings.
When Hollings learned of the proposal, he was upset about being kept out of
the loop -- a sentiment shared by Democratic FTC commissioner Mozelle
Muris and James scrapped the idea last week after Hollings and Thompson
voiced their concern.
Still, all four FTC commissioners agreed that the process should be
streamlined so that it is immediately clear which agency will review which
mergers, and it is likely that once all relevant parties give their input, the
proposed changes will take place.
Meanwhile, consumer groups want the FTC to continue reviewing media mergers,
saying that as an independent agency, as opposed to a branch of the
administration, the FTC has more leeway.
'The structure [of the FTC] allows for more diverse views, greater
independence and greater continuity in decision-making,' wrote Jeff Chester,
president of the Center for Digital Democracy, in a memo he sent to Capitol Hill