ARTISTIC COALITION PENS OPEN LETTER TO FTC URGING THE AGENCY TO CONSIDER THE EFFECT OF MARKET CONSOLIDATION ON CONTENT CREATORS

(New York)– In comments sent June 30 to the Federal Trade Commission, PEN America and partnering organizations representing authors, artists, musicians, and non-profit arts organizations urged the agency to utilize its newly created Technology Task Force to engage with creative communities in an effort to support competitive cultural markets.

This letter comes at the close of the FTC’s 2018-2019 hearings initiative, during which it held a series of public hearings to examine the agency’s approach to competition policy and consumer protection. The associated comment period provided citizens and stakeholders an opportunity to inform the FTC’s approach. The signatories ask that FTC engage with creative communities around the country to assess impacts on diversity of expression and take into consideration the effect of relevant mergers on creative economies when the agency reviews, investigates, or considers enforcement action.

“The FTC’s series of hearings has surfaced strong evidence of the need to consider new approaches to evaluating competition,” the letter reads in part. “While the FTC has defined citizens’ interests and consumer welfare primarily in terms of price effects in the last few decades, many are now asking whether a more robust analytical framework that better captures a broader array of potential harms might be more appropriate.  In future evaluation of potential competition problems, and as market players narrow, we would encourage the FTC specifically to consider impacts on diversity of expression, and to protect healthy markets throughout the arts and culture supply chain.”

“From the publishing realm to the music sector and news media consolidation, reductions in competitive markets risk creating cultural monopolies,” said Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Content creators are becoming more and more reliant on only a small handful of companies to be able to reach audiences. This leads to less diversity of expression, which impacts artists, creators, and consumers alike.”

Kevin Erickson, Director of Future of Music Coalition, highlighted: “Momentum is building for regulators and policymakers to take a critical look at the impacts of consolidation across our economy.  As the FTC examines these issues, it’s important for the agency to be proactive, seeking out the unique perspectives that creators of all disciplines as well as non-profit arts and culture organizations can provide.”

Learn more about PEN America’s advocacy in defense of protecting diverse markets and supporting content creators, such as writers and small publishing houses. Most recently, we sent a joint letter with Open Markets Institute and the Authors Guild calling on the Department of Justice to block the merger to avoid a deal that would ultimately become a straightforward “merger to monopoly” situation. The Department ultimately chose to step in and block the QUAD-LSC merger to avoid these very market ills.

                                            ####

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, PEN America Media Consultant, strimel@pen.org