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Posts Tagged ‘ftc & doj’

Saving Newspapers, or…

In Competition, FCC, FTC & DOJ, Rules&Regs, Testimony on October 15, 2009 at 8:07 pm

…Corporate Bailouts. As I wrote before, there’s no shortage of voices on topic. Professors, Think Tanks, Foundations, Advocacy Groups, Big Media…and Us. We’re still at the beginning of this national debate, and we had a seat at the last House Committee Dog & Pony Show. There’s lots more to come and lots at stake. Next up are the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, and we need to step up our united efforts immediately — Season starts in earnest next month!

Here’s what we can expect from Big Media: On display before a Senate subcommittee this summer, NAA’s reps got softballs on “competition” and hit them over the Sherman, Clayton and Cross-ownership walls, i.e. tear down the last legal barriers to total local market domination for “our survival.” Go figure, their reporters don’t spell it out that nakedly. And recently before the latest House Show, the voice for Gannett, Tribune, NewsCorp & Fortune 500 asked for Tax & Pension Relief.

Sounds good? Here’s my caution on NAA’s ask: Fails to note that businesses with revenue under $15 million got the 5 yr operating loss carryover (v. current 2 yr) as part of the stimulus package that passed. Those above a part of a fairly select group enjoying multiple other perks, loopholes and other advantages we don’t have. Factoring offshore havens, goodwill impairment write-offs and a host of other “savings” that come from complex organization and the ability to hire the very best accountants and tax attorneys, many of these folks already pay proportionately much less than we on gross revenues. (NOTE: They also have better access to cheaper capital, pay 20% less on health insurance not trapped in small group market, and on…)

And on deferred payment to defined benefit plans, just know that we’re all ultimately on the hook. At USPS this makes sense, where H.R. 22 tackles the double funding concession they made to get the Military’s rightful obligations off the Postal books. By contrast, USPS is multiples better funded than the private sector — and my real concern is the fall-back for Fortune 500 pensions is the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), which is so disastrously underfunded that over the last yrs they’ve redefined “underfunded” and “at-risk liabilities” a few times to make the looming Armageddon only look like Hiroshima. Big Biz’ underfunded pensions are backed by the underfunded PBGC, which is backed by we taxpaying citizens and small businesses.

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United Policy Point #5: Support Fair Competition!

In FCC, FTC & DOJ on October 13, 2009 at 12:00 am

We need laws and rules that foster fair competition between media outlets in local media markets.

The high profile bankruptcies, historic revenue declines, diminished market cap and decimated newsrooms have led to all sorts of formal and informal thoughts about “saving newspapers” and “saving journalism.” As a party to several DC group discussions, I’ve certainly heard ideas about heavy-handed government involvement that could have the effect of picking winners and losers.

But some ideas on the corporate formation, bankruptcy and tax fronts are worth considering (ESOPs & L3Cs — not the Cardin non-profit bill! — Prepacks favoring local ownership following divested clusters). And of course, the largest media companies are using the crisis to call for loosening of antitrust laws on both the merger and predatory front. Nashville community papers’ complaint against Gannett is still under review, the DOJ has signaled that they’re not so far inclined to loosen the laws they rarely enforce now, the FTC will begin examining the state of journalism in December and the FCC will begin another full-blown look at Cross-ownership early next year, starting off with workshops early this November.

Recent comments from the White House indicate that the competing ideas could be closer to becoming laws in the not so distant future. FYI, the US Chamber joined with big media and NAA & NAB against us on NBCO, and beyond FCC jurisdiction, they’re also on their side at FTC, DOJ and Congress favoring more consolidation and leverage in local markets, but we might have common ground on the corporate formation, bankruptcy and tax fronts.

Beware Federal Regs: Red Flag & Product Safety

In Links, Rules&Regs on October 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm

You’ll need to pay attention to a couple of obscure, new Federal Regulations: The FTC’s Red Flag Rule & the CPSC’s Product Safety Bans on Used Kids’ Stuff.

From the bowels of bureaucracy, the unelected faceless folks that made rules that impact our daily lives, come these efforts to curb identity theft and save children from the harms of toys once recalled but recycled below the retail radar. From the Federal Trade Commission comes the Red Flags Rule, with more in the way of clear guidance to come before they begin enforcement this November 1st. Businesses that extend credit to individuals will be expected to have a written policy in place to detect suspicious activity that could evidence or lead to identity theft. Neither one-off, nor business customer transactions are covered in the scope, but ongoing billable relationships with sole proprietors appear for the moment to require particular scrutiny — as guidance is released, I will share a model policy handbook to handle dealings with contractors and doing-business-as type accounts.

As for the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the “Improvement Act” of the same name, there are new guidelines and ongoing rulemaking process. It is illegal for anyone — from thrift stores to your neighbor by way of yard sale — to sell merchandise recalled from the retail market. And there’s a bigger budget for enforcement, especially for children’s toys, clothing and cribs. Publishers seem to be off the hook for penalties, but it might be good to suggest some warnings for ad copy on choking hazards of small toys. Otherwise, here’s the link to the Official Handbook to point clients to for their own protection.