The Big Pitch: What should AOL-Time Warner pros do to get regulatory approval for merger?

BergerBrown Communications

BergerBrown Communications

BergerBrown Communications



South Orange, NJ



During this time it is important for pros working with regulators to

demonstrate that: the merger will not impede competition; consumers will

benefit from both cost savings and expanded access to information; and

there are sufficient firewalls between editorial staffs of the combined

venture’s media that no single editorial voice can control what and how

information is reported. The competition issue is probably best

addressed by using case studies of past media mergers - certainly it

would be hard to argue that the competition among the giants has done

anything but increase significantly in the past several years. Economies

exist in almost every area for the combined entity, and the financial

community having run the numbers in every possible way, appears to be

ready to greet the newly formed AOL-Time Warner quite warmly. Favorable

independent analyst reports, along with positive editorial coverage,

should be used in making this point. Using case studies would be helpful

in demonstrating that the fear of one entity being able to control the

news is just simply unfounded.



Showcasing the measures that are in place to ensure editorial

independence, and how they will be expanded in the new entity should

also allay fears regarding the imposition of a Big Brother-style media

giant.



Tom Hoog



Hill & Knowlton



New York



While regulatory approval is primarily a function of market and consumer

impact, the prospects for approval are aided by a public affairs

strategy and the support of public opinion. The first issue is which

regulatory bodies have jurisdiction, and what is their goal. Messages

and tactics must be established based on the agencies’ unique vocabulary

and policy interests. Further, every regulatory agency is more or less

susceptible to political pressures and considerations and most of all,

by public opinion.



The prospects for regulatory approval are greatly enhanced by a skillful

public affairs effort that includes the briefing and mobilization of the

relevant Congressional committees, the grass-roots mobilization of

affected political communities, inciting consumer groups to communicate

the market benefits of the proposed merger in both national and regional

press, a strategy for marketing the company and its leadership as

innovative and positioning the merger as necessary for effective

international competition and the public advocacy of good law by

respected legal authorities in support of the proposed merger. Public

opinion drives public policy from the White House to City Hall

Regulatory agencies that significantly affect the public are little

different.



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