View from City Road: Sweet music from the monopolies watchdog

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The Independent Online
When the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found evidence of a complex monopoly operating among brewers, it proposed a radical break-up of the industry that would strip brewers of most of their pubs. Four years later and consumers are still waiting for evidence of the lower prices and better choice that was meant to flow from the changes. The brewers and their employees are still meanwhile counting the cost. British Gas too is being forced to break itself up at an estimated cost of pounds 180m. Whether consumers benefit is in the lap of the gods, but if they do it will probably be by no more than an effective regulator could have achieved at a fraction of the price.

It is therefore refreshing to see that the MMC has eschewed meddling in another complex monopoly that generally serves the consumer and the country well: the music industry. As the MMC observes, the UK music industry is a large and important one. It has annual retail sales in Britain of more than pounds 1bn. It earns considerable income for the UK from licensing records overseas. And it employs 48,000 people in this country. The British music industry is a success story, and the MMC is right to leave well alone.

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