TicketDisaster.org urges DOJ to investigate Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger – National Consumers League

January 8, 2010

Contact: John Breyault, NCL (202) 207-2819, johnb@nclnet.org or
Shannon Flaherty, National Association of Ticket Brokers, (202) 347-6762, sflaherty@theheraldgroup.com

Washington, DC — As Ticketmaster and Live Nation stockholders voted today to approve moving forward with the proposed merger, the public interest and live event industry members of the TicketDisaster.org coalition released the following statement urging the Department of Justice to look toward the interests of consumers and competition by refusing concessions and blocking the merger:

“Fifty members of Congress have been joined by thousands of consumers who have contacted the Department of Justice and demanded action to protect competition and choice in the live entertainment industry,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the TicketDisaster.org coalition. “The only parties who appear to be in favor of this deal are Ticketmaster and Live Nation, themselves. Consumers know that if approved, this deal will lead to higher prices, worse service, and fewer options for live events.”

“Stockholder approval should not be confused with public approval, and the companies’ bottom lines should not be compared to the public interest,” said David Balto, former Federal Trade Commission policy director and counsel to the consumer and industry groups. “While this move is necessary for the companies to proceed, it has no impact on alleviating antitrust concerns or DOJ’s decision in how to move forward.”

“It is the legal responsibility of the Antitrust Division to halt anti-competitive consolidations, and this remarkable consolidation of a large section of the entertainment industry presents the Obama Administration with its first highly visible opportunity to show they will be taking that role seriously,” said Bert Foer, President of the American Antitrust Institute. “The antitrust and consumer protection communities are watching this one like a hawk, and we have strong reason to believe DOJ will show up for this fight.”

For more information, please visit www.TicketDisaster.org.


LifeSmarts State Competitions Heating Up – National Consumers League

Just a week into 2010, and it’s easy to see that the online LifeSmarts competitions are heating up! A few online competitions have already closed (congrats to the teams advancing in Florida and Hawaii!), with many more set to close in January. If you are a coach or competitor in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arizona, or Vermont, time is of the essence! Your state’s online competition is closing this week or next. And if you are competing in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, or Wisconsin, your online competition wraps up before the month is out. All state closing datesare listed at LifeSmarts.org.

If you haven’t registered yet, in most states there is still time. Go to our site and click on “looking for instructions” to help you get started.

If you’re already registered but want a quick cheat sheet, here is what Coaches and Students must do by their competition’s closing date to qualify to advance to an in-person competition:

Coach To Do List

  1. Register online
  2. Create teams online
  3. Have students register
  4. Have students compete online

Student To Do List

  1. Register online
  2. Take practice quizzes
  3. Compete!
  4. Extra Credit: Use the online LifeSmarts Lab and other free online learning tools

And please let us know if we can help – contact program staff members Lisa Hertzberg at lisah@nclnet.org or Brandi Williams at brandiw@nclnet.org.

TicketDisaster.org coalition corrects reports on DOJ action on Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger – National Consumers League

January 6, 2010

Contact: (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC–In response to recent reports suggesting the imminent approval of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger, the public interest and live event industry members of the TicketDisaster.org coalition released the following statement to correct the record and give further reason why the merger should be blocked.

“This is just the latest attempt by Ticketmaster and Live Nation to convince the public and the Department of Justice to ‘just trust us.’ Anyone who has been ripped off by their outrageous fees and inferior service knows that Ticketmaster does not have consumers’ best interests in mind,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the TicketDisaster.org coalition. “Thousands of consumers, fifty Members of Congress, and a broad and growing coalition of public interest groups and live event industry representatives oppose this merger as an attempt by one behemoth to snap up its only significant rival in the ticketing market and extend its market power into every level of the live event industry. DOJ should block this merger outright, and we have every hope that they will do so.”

“The reports that the merger will be approved, like the premature reports of Mark Twain’s death, are inaccurate and flawed, and are clearly timed to impact the shareholder vote on Friday,” said David Balto, former Federal Trade Commission policy director and counsel to the consumer and industry groups. “Ticketmaster may wish that the competitive problems from this merger can be solved through a piecemeal divestiture, but they are wrong. It is not unusual for merging firms to try to rescue a stranded deal with some type of last-minute remedy, but history has shown that consumers are better off when the antitrust cops reject those desperate pleas and protect the interests of a fair and competitive market.”


About TicketDisaster.org

TicketDisaster.org is a coalition of public interest groups, ticket brokers, and independent venue owners and promoters united in opposition to the proposed Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. Coalition members include the American Antitrust Institute, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, I.M.P. Productions Chairman Seth Hurwitz (representing independent venue owners), the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the National Consumers League and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).

Help us Protect Farmworker Children! Help Us Pass the CARE Act! – National Consumers League

By Reid Maki, Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition

2010 has begun with positive momentum building for the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), legislation that aims to protect the sons and daughters of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Support for CARE, which is a priority of the National Consumers League (NCL) and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL co-chairs, grew rapidly in December. During the month, the number of members of Congress who have agreed to be co-sponsors of the legislation quadrupled. The legislation is now endorsed by 64 members of Congress as well as 30 national groups!

CARE would fix exemptions in U.S. child labor law—dating back to 1939 and the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act—that allow large numbers of kids to work for wages in U.S. agriculture at ages 12 and 13. Our belief is that although it’s okay for kids to work on their parents’ farms, children working for wages in agriculture should be subject to the same child labor laws as all other working children in the United States. Agriculture is consistently ranked by the U.S. government as one of the most dangerous workplaces. Does it make sense to allow young children to work in an industry known to be dangerous?

In November, ABC’s Nightline found several children under the age of 10 working for blueberry farmers in Michigan. In 2008, staff from our campaign partner, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, conducted investigative visits to blueberry fields in North Carolina and found numerous children under 10 working. There are so many exemptions to current law that it’s often hard to tell if young children are working legally or illegally.

Often the sons and daughters of impoverished migrant and seasonal farmworkers, the children, who work mostly as hand harvesters of fruit and vegetables, pay a heavy price for their work. In addition to suffering health consequences from exposure to pesticides and dangerous farm machinery, these farmworker youth experience drop-out rates that are truly frightening: More than half of these kids do not graduate from high school! The work is often exhausting. Long hours in the hot sun after getting up at 3 or 4 a.m. are combined with constant bending over. Is it ethical to allow these kids to suffer so much so that we can enjoy lower-cost fruits and vegetables? Why should these children work under different protections than other children? It’s well known that child labor reduces wages for adult workers. Wouldn’t it be better to restrict this work to adults and pay them a living wage?

Please consider contacting your member of Congress and telling them that you would like them to cosponsor HR 3564, the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment—CARE. The legislation has been endorsed by both of America’s largest teacher unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, a co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition. The AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the Teamsters, and the Communications Workers of America have each endorsed it. The United Farm Workers of America and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee—the country’s two largest farmworker unions—have endorsed it. Farmworker Justice, the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association, the National Association of State Directors of Migrant Education, and the National Farmworker Ministry have also announced their support for CARE. Human Rights Watch, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the International Labor Rights Forum—groups that monitor human and worker rights abuses—have endorsed it as well. Please help us pass the CARE Act.

If you would like more information about the CARE Act or the Children in the Fields Campaign or would like to receive updates about CARE, email Reid Maki at reidm@nclnet.org.

Narrow New Year’s Day Escape from Blank TV Screens – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Talk about “brinksmanship.” This past week we saw an extreme example when Time Warner Cable and Fox almost failed to come to an agreement for recarriage of Fox content on the Time Warner Cable network. Had the parties not met the December 31st deadline—as Fox was demanding greater compensation from Time Warner for its New Year’s football and other programming, and Time Warner was asking that the parties go to binding arbitration—starting immediately with New Year’s Day programming, millions of Time Warner Cable customers would have lost access to the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Orange Bowl, as well as NFL playoff games.

Prior to last year’s digital transition, many consumers were able to put up rabbit ear antennas to receive programming. Senator John Kerry, as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communication, Technology, and the Internet, took the lead in calling for a resolution of the standoff. Senator Kerry said last week, “We do not want consumers waking up on the first day of the New Year wanting to watch football and instead finding that they have to take a trip to the electronics store to purchase a digital receiver in the hope that they receive a clear over the air signal.”

Senator Kerry, who has been a good friend to consumers throughout his tenure in the Senate, made this statement: “I have sought to place the interests of consumers at the center of our work. If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets. As leaders of major companies that are FCC licensees and are obligated to serve the public interest, I hope and expect that you will resolve this matter consistent with those obligations.” Well, Senator Kerry got his New Year’s wish. His staff also reached out to the National Consumers League and we issued a statement of support on New Year’s eve, as did others, including Public Knowledge and the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC.

A consumer guide to dietary supplements – National Consumers League

Dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and other botanicals, and amino acids, are used by a growing number of people in the United States. They’re available at drug stores, specialty stores, even gas stations! Some of these products have a long history as traditional remedies, especially many herbal and botanical products, but others, such as amino acids and enzymes are fairly new to the marketplace.

Dietary supplements have gained mainstream popularity and are sold in major grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and specialty shops, as well as through direct sales representatives, catalogs, and on the Internet.

NCL’s brochure, A Consumer Guide to Dietary Supplements, is intended to give you a better understanding of what dietary supplements are, the claims manufacturers can make about the products, and the information listed on the product labels. It also includes a glossary of commonly used terms, a list of questions to ask yourself and your health professional, and a resource section for additional information.

Foodborne illness making millions of Americans sick – National Consumers League

Foodborne illness causes 76 million Americans to fall sick, 325,000 Americans to be hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans to die each year. Recent foodborne illness outbreaks linked to contaminated foods highlight the inadequacies of our current food safety system. Learn what groups like NCL are doing to help improve the safety of our foods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne illness causes 76 million Americans to fall sick, 325,000 Americans to be hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans to die each year. Recent foodborne illness outbreaks linked to contaminated peanuts, cookie dough, and spinach – along with news coverage of illness and death from contaminated ground beef – highlight the inadequacies of our current food safety system.

Outdated laws, insufficient authorities, and inadequate resources prevent the Food and Drug Administration from ensuring the safety of the food supply. For these reasons, the National Consumers League supports food safety reform and is doing its part as a member of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (www.makeourfoodsafe.org) to convince Congress to enact improved food safety legislation this year.

Student Loan System in Need of Reform – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

One thing that gets me really hot under the collar is that we’ve allowed so many banks, for-profit colleges, and other companies to make money from loaning students—at very high rates of interest—the tuition to attend college or graduate school. This should be an entirely government-run or nonprofit business in which no one is enriched in the process. There’s a place for making profits—ideally honest profits—in the United States. But student loans shouldn’t be one of them.

Today there are millions of students facing mountainous debts—some close to $100,000—after completing their undergrad and graduate educations. These debts govern what jobs students can take, and prevents too many community minded young people from entering public or government service because those jobs just don’t pay enough to pay off the crippling student loans. In other cases, students have been ripped off by schools that are phantom institutions, many for-profit entities that are more interested in the money they can make from student loans than in educating students.

Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, writes about this issue in the Wall Street Journal recently. Duncan points out that the current system works to indemnify bank loans to students. If students don’t pay back their debts, the United States government covers the banks’ loss. Meantime banks charge the students high interest rates without taking on any risk.

But things have changed. The National Consumers League is part of a coalition of groups backing the inclusion of all private student loans under the jurisdiction of a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This will allow these private loans to be reviewed for how well they protect student interests. Sadly, at a number of for-profit colleges, attended disproportionately by African American and Latino students, 42 percent of students took out private loans at high interest rates. Corinthian Colleges has told investors that it plans to make $130 million in loans to its students even though it expects 56-58 percent of these borrowers to default. Other for-profit colleges offer high interest open-end credit to their students. You get the picture.

On the federal government end, Education Secretary Duncan has announced that all student loans will come through the existing federal Direct Loan program. The federal government will save $87 billion annually by not backstopping bank lending to students. As Duncan points out, “We cannot in good conscience let $87 billion in subsidies go to banks when our students desperately need financial help to realize the dream of getting a college education.” We agree with Secretary Duncan: after many years, finally federal policy is focusing the attention on students, not on helping banks or companies make profits on the backs of students.