Press Consolidation and Public Policy
Probe of Concentration in Newspaper Ownership
An Inquiry into the decline of competition among American newspapers will attract wide public attention early in the first session of the 88th Congress. Rep. Emanuel Celler (D N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and of its antitrust subcommittee, which will conduct the inquiry, said on Jan. 4 that public hearings probably would open in February. The public hearings will climax a probe by subcommittee investigators that has been under way for nearly a year. This is the first comprehensive inquiry undertaken by a committee of Congress into the economic conditions and business practices that have tended to promote newspaper mergers and press monopolies.
Although concentration of newspaper ownership has been growing for half a century, recent events have given the 1963 hearings special pertinency. Foremost is the strike by typographers that has shut down nine major dailies in New York City. Eight million New Yorkers have been without their usual daily newspaper fare since Dec. 9. The city's longest and costliest newspaper strike has raised the possibility that one or more of the financially weaker papers may not be able to resume operations after the strike is settled. Rep. Celler said, Jan. 4, that “We will definitely look into New York's strike.”
Once the hearings on Capitol Hill have been completed, the subcommittee will consider whether to recommend corrective legislation. A Royal commission of inquiry in Great Britain recently proposed that a Press Amalgamations Court be created to pass on newspaper mergers in that country. Some observers believe, however, that the time has gone by in the United States when legislation might contribute to maintenance of local newspaper competition. Competition in the metropolitan press, in particular, already has been reduced to the point where there are not enough competing papers remaining to permit more than a few additional consolidations.