Obama eyes media with promise of antitrust push

Mon May 19, 2008 8:03am EDT

(Repeating story first issued on May 18) (Adds background on specific industries, additional quote, changes dateline, previous GRESHAM)

By Jeff Mason

PENDLETON, Ore., May 18 (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama said on Sunday he would pursue a vigorous antitrust policy if he becomes U.S. president and singled out the media industry as one area where government regulators would need to be watchful as consolidation increases.

"I will assure that we will have an antitrust division that is serious about pursuing cases," the Illinois senator told an audience of mostly senior citizens in Oregon.

"There are going to be areas, in the media for example where we're seeing more and more consolidation, that I think (it) is legitimate to ask...is the consumer being served?"

Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to contest November's presidential election against Republican Sen. John McCain, criticized President George W. Bush's administration for lax supervision of major mergers, though he did not cite specific examples or companies.

"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 said.

"Some of the consolidations that have been taking place, I think, may be anti-competitive."

Obama advisers have also said he would crack down on any competition lapses in the energy sector that have resulted from big corporate mergers.

In a position statement for the American Antitrust Institute issued previously, Obama highlighted drug and insurance companies, saying his administration would work to prevent agreements that kept cheaper generic drugs from entering the market.

He also said his administration would ensure that drug and insurance companies were not abusing monopoly positions by instituting "unjustified" price increases.

Obama told reporters a new approach to antitrust policy in general may be needed.

"We live in a globalized economy and we probably have to update how we approach antitrust to figure out what is truly uncompetitive behavior on the part of monopolies or oligopolies and what are just big successful companies that need to be big in order to compete internationally," he said. (Editing by Chris Wilson)




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