Recent merger could inhibit Web growth

The latest proposed mega-merger of America Online and Time Warner has many consumer advocates trembling. Indeed, the combination of the largest Internet portal and the world’s largest company is estimated to have a market value worth more than $342 billion. The Justice Department should be aggressive about preventing AOL and Time Warner from monopolizing an industry that is rapidly converging, as the decreased competition and flow of ideas could greatly harm both consumers and the expanding Internet.
AOL and Time Warner announced the estimated $165 billion merger on Jan. 10. Time Warner’s vast media holdings and extensive cable connections were the key acquisitions enticing AOL founder Steve Case. However, besides controlling such a large share of information distribution, the conglomerate would force rivals to develop ties to their larger traditional media counterparts. The media is especially sensitive to mergers because the concentration of ownership of different media industries has the potential to restrict diverse perspectives. Thus, the field slims down and competition dwindles as fledglings lose what little footing they have.
The Internet will undoubtedly become the predominant means for people to communicate information in the 21st century. If the gateways to this medium are owned by very few, and alliances are made between gatekeepers and media conglomerates, popular culture will become increasingly homogenized and will dwarf the competing minority voices. The Time Warner and AOL merger should be closely observed to ensure the Internet develops into a truly open medium.