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The looming combination of Viacom and CBS Corp. makes it imperative that the "buy" side of the advertising marketplace-agency media buyers and their advertiser clients-take stock of exactly where its interests lie as this next wave of media consolidation gathers steam. Before more deals come along, and they surely will, top media buyers need to move beyond individual expressions of concern and forge a group consensus-if there is one-that can be presented to government policy makers charged with passing judgment on these deals.

There's a lot at stake. The door is now open for media owners to control two TV stations in a market and whole stables of local radio stations. It's a safe bet that media company dealmakers won't stop there. Why keep rules that bar ownership of more than one broadcast network? That block TV station/cable TV system combinations in the same market? That prevent acquisition of a string of TV stations that cover the entire nation?

The day after announcing their "big bang," Viacom's Sumner Redstone and CBS's Mel Kamarzin were in Washington to press the government to further liberalize the rules to avoid having to sell off TV stations or Viacom's 50% stake in the UPN network. Who will speak for ad buyers if the media buying pros do not determine what their interests are and aggressively advocate them?

There is no turning back the tide. Ad buying, too, is consolidating into bigger units. The Redstones and Kamarzins can be counted on to tout the benefits they can provide advertisers, and they may be significant. But like any gift horse, the advertiser "beneficiaries" need to look closely at what they are getting-and

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