By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud Consumers and artists would be the likely losers if the proposed merger of ticketing giant Ticketmaster and concert management behemoth Live Nation were allowed to proceed. The reported entry of cable company Comcast into the merger negotiations does nothing to alleviate the very serious concerns that consumer groups like NCL have conveyed to legislators and the Department of Justice (DOJ). That was the message that NCL sent to policymakers on Thursday when we released a joint statement opposing the merger in coordination with the National Association of Ticket Brokers, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and Knowledge Ecology International. Noted the groups:
“There seems to be little dispute after extensive Congressional hearings that the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation raises very profound competitive concerns. That is why fifty Members of Congress – an unprecedented number – have written to the DOJ with concerns about the merger. The Department of Justice has a unique opportunity to protect consumers by preventing this anticompetitive merger and preserving competition and choice in the marketplace.”Thursday’s action came on the heels of a September 11 letter NCL, Consumer Action, and CFA sent to Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division expressing our concern about the merger. Then, as now, we remain extremely concerned that the merger would result in higher ticket prices for consumers, who have been paying Ticketmaster’s exorbitant “convenience fees” for years. All the while, company has busily gobbled up smaller competitors (remember Ticketron?) in the ticketing industry. Live Nation attempted to become a competitor in the ticketing business, a move which many believe prompted the bid by Ticketmaster. This move is one of the big reasons why we are calling on the DOJ to strongly consider blocking this merger. As an organization strongly dedicated to advocating on behalf of workers as well as consumers, we are also concerned about the impact the proposed merger will have on artists. It is already difficult for artists to put on a show without using Ticketmaster’s ticketing services or performing in a Live Nation venue. Should the merger be approved, we fear that artists’ choices for who manages their ticket sales and their concerts would diminish even further. We look forward to working with the DOJ and our partners in the consumers and industry communities to make sure consumers and artists are not the ultimate losers from this merger.