Media worries

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Out on the presidential campaign trail, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) put his finger on a key issue that AOL chief Steve Case, and other media empire builders, must confront: legitimate concerns over media ownership concentration.

The senator, who heads the influential Senate commerce committee, told Advertising Age he's worried about the effects of the consolidation taking place in TV and radio station ownership since Congress and the FCC relaxed the old ground rules in the mid-1990s. Though station ownership isn't directly involved, Mr. Case's bid to forge a cable/Internet media/entertainment giant out of AOL and Time Warner will raise further questions.

Advertisers, no doubt, aren't eager to invite government to return to a more activist role in shaping the structure of the media business. Nor are we. But neither should advertisers placidly buy the bubbly assurances of today's media empire builders that bigger is, of course, better. Sen. McCain's wariness is justified, and advertisers should welcome his interest in maintaining a healthy media marketplace.

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