Nation & World

Democrats Call for Hearings on Disney-Fox Merger


(File photo) Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks at a news conference to unveil congressional Democrat's “A Better Deal” economic agenda on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. (REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)
(File photo) Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks at a news conference to unveil congressional Democrat's “A Better Deal” economic agenda on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. (REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

LOS ANGELES — Top Democrats on the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees are calling for hearings on the Walt Disney Co.’s proposed acquisition of a large portion of 21st Century Fox, including its film and TV studio, cable networks, and regional sports channels.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said that the proposed transaction was “another industry-changing merger, which would have major implications in television, film, and media.”

“I’m concerned about the impact of this transaction on American consumers,” she said.

She said that she has asked Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who chairs the subcommittee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, to schedule a hearing. None has been set so far. After AT&T and Time Warner announced their plans to combine in October, 2016, Lee and Klobuchar quickly announced plans for a hearing.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who is the ranking member of the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, called for a close look at the transaction.

He said in a statement, he said that the country was at a “monopoly moment.”

“Disney’s proposed purchase of 21st Century Fox threatens to put control of TV, movie, and news content into the hands of a single media giant.”

“If it’s approved, this merger could allow Disney to limit what consumers can watch and increase their cable bills. Disney will gain more than 300 channels, 22 regional sports networks, control over Hulu, and a significant portion of Roku.”

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Disney CEO Robert Iger has said that the merger will be better for consumers, as the company builds out a new streaming service to compete with Netflix and Amazon.

The companies expect the regulatory process to take about 12 to 18 months. The Justice Department is likely to review the transaction, but it does not require congressional approval. Still, past major media mergers have typically come before committees for public hearings.

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