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So much for the FTC’s trustbusting agenda

US trade regulator, the FTC, has allowed Amazon’s acquisition of MGM to proceed without so much as a whimper of dissent.

This is not the kind thing we were led to expect when the slayer of monopolies Lina Khan was appointed Federal Trade Commission boss a year ago. In fact, she arrived with the reputation of feeling especially antagonistic towards Amazon, having previously written at length about how something needs to be done to curb the company’s power.

So when Amazon announced its intention to buy movie studio MGM, despite already being a video content producer via its Prime Video division, the scene was set for Khan to put her money where her mouth is. And yet, just a couple of days after the EU somehow determined the acquisition presented no competition concerns, Amazon declared the deal done.

What happened Lina? Surely this was a perfect opportunity for you to put a trustbusting stake in the ground and show these cocky tech giants who they’re dealing with. A report by Politico pins the blame of the absurdly politicised US system of regulatory agencies, in which commissioners always seem to be overtly partisan.

Usually this doesn’t matter because the party in power gets to pick the majority of commissioners, who simply overrule the Pavlovian opposition of the others. For a time after Khan’s appointment by President Biden there were indeed three Democrat-affiliated commissioners to two Republican ones. But then Biden moved Rohit Chopra to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, due to the partisan nature of the approval process, has struggled to confirm Alvaro Bedoya as his replacement.

Lacking the customary majority among the FTC Commissioners, it seems Khan figured there was no point in even trying to move against the MGM acquisition because the vote would be deadlocked. What a tangled web we weave. You’d think she might have given it a go, just to say she did, or at least make a big show of her personal objections to the move, but Khan seems to have been surprisingly muted on the matter.

The US state has been signalling its eagerness to take on Big Tech for ages. Prior to this matter it wasted everyone’s time by moaning about some Facebook acquisitions, having previously approved them, and then failed in its bid to go after Qualcomm’s licensing practices. If, as we suspect, the underlying motive for this crusade is to give the government leverage to bend big tech to its agenda, we can only conclude it has largely failed in that aim so far.


3 comments

  1. Avatar threedawgs3 20/03/2022 @ 6:35 pm

    An Inverted-Totalitarian, 100% Corrupt, Cabal-Controlled, Police-State Government masquerating as some form of a capitalistic-free-democratic-system that’s never existed, must be totally and violently destroyed primarily by guerilla warfare tactics if anyone desires to live in freedom with dignity. Period! It’s not possible to coexist with totalitarianism. To try to do so will insure certain death.

  2. Avatar vbscript2 21/03/2022 @ 9:06 pm

    This is a very poor take, but, unfortunately, I’ve come to expect nothing less from this publication, especially when it comes to anything related to the U.S.

    Amazon buying MGM isn’t a monopoly, nor is it anything remotely resembling one.

    There are spaces in which there are legitimate concerns of big tech companies being monopolies, but Amazon in video content production isn’t one of them. Meta in VR? Legitimate concern. Meta and Twitter in social media? Also legitimate concerns. Google in online video distribution? Legitimate concern. Google in search? Another legitimate concern. Amazon in retail? Not quite a monopoly, but a legitimate concern. Amazon in video production? Not so much. If it were Disney, then there would be some legitimate concern.

    Regulators – like all other government officials – are supposed to do their job and abide by rule of law, not abuse their power to promote their own agendas. Regulators aren’t supposed to punish a company in one area just out of personal spite or because they don’t like what they’re doing in another area.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 22/03/2022 @ 9:09 am

      And yet you keep reading. Maybe give it another go – the take was on the FTC’s and Khan’s rhetoric.

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