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Rock News: US Government vs. MTV
Now that the U.S. Justice Department has scored an antitrust victory over Microsoft they are looking at Viacom's MTV Networks. 

MTV Networks runs cable channels MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and M2. The Government alleges that MTV has possibly violated antitrust laws with their dealings with Record Companies according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The Justice department is investigating various MTV tactics and practices which could leave competitors out in the dark. The probe was launched after Viacom acquired The Box, a fledgling music video cable station earlier this year, also the fact that Viacom proposed a buyout of  CBS. With control of the CBS network television station and it's holdings it is believed that Viacom could virtually control music television and have a strong foothold in radio as well. CBS owns Country Music TV and the second largest radio broadcasting company in the U.S., Infinity Broadcasting.  Among the allegations, the Justice department is looking into claims that MTV demands exclusive rights to airing music videos. Additionally, they are looking at the cable music giants licensing terms for digital video distribution on their web site. With the web gaining momentum, some believe that MTV will use it's clout to dominate online videos in addition to their cable empire.

BET and Canadian Much Music are MTV's only real competitors, new music video channels are difficult to launch when you do not have access to hit artists' video catalogs. The real danger of MTV however is that in addition to being able to make stars out of unknown artist, they can hamper an artist success by not playing their videos. 

Music executives have complained about MTV tactics. Because of lack of competition, MTV Networks pays one lump licensing fee to record companies to air their artist videos on all of MTV channels. Translated, this means because there is no real competitor for these licenses, MTV is able to gain access to these videos at what record companies consider an under priced fee. 

MTV commands an audience of 72.6 million homes while VH1 is seen in 68.8 million homes. That places the MTV networks at the forefront of Cable Television viewership. It is this dominance of the cable television market that makes MTV an easy target for antitrust allegations. 

A Viacom spokesperson stated that they intend to fully cooperate with the government investigation. 

Stay tuned more to come on this story.
 

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