DOJ trying to stop California newspaper sale

March 18, 2016

news 1The United States Department of Justice has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in attempt to block the Tribune Publishing Company from purchasing the Orange County Register. The DOJ is also trying to halt the sale of the Riverside County Press-Enterprise to the Tribune.

Following a bankruptcy auction, Tribune Publishing has been selected as the purchaser of Freedom Communications Inc. In the Southern California market, Tribune publishing owns the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Freedom Communications owns both the Register and Press-Enterprise.

Next week, the Tribune is scheduled to seek bankruptcy court approval of its acquisition of Freedom Communications.

On Thursday, the DOJ announced it filed a complaint in federal court in Los Angeles seeking a temporary restraining order. The DOJ says the Tribune’s acquisition of Freedom Communications would monopolize newspapers in Orange and Riverside counties.

The LA Times and the Register account for 98 percent of newspaper sales in Orange County, according to the DOJ. The Times and Freedom Communications’ newspapers account for 81 percent of English-language newspaper sales in Riverside County.

DOJ officials say the acquisition would allow the Tribune to increase subscription prices, raise advertising rates and invest less to maintain the quality of its newspapers.

“If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside counties will suffer,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division. “Newspaper continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers.The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that competition in this important industry is protected.”

The DOJ complaint does not mention competition from online news.

Tribune Publishing is a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Chicago. The company publishes 11 major daily newspapers in California, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In recent years, publishers have been purchasing clusters of California newspaper with the intent of sharing journalistic and business duties among sister publications located in the same regions. Tribune Publishing has been carving up the Southern California market. Denver-based publisher Digital First Media owns a cluster of Bay Area papers, and the McClatchy Company owns four Central Valley newspapers, as well as the San Luis Obispo Tribune.


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12 Comments

  1. Skip Tracer says:

    The U.S. Department of Justice sees what the Tribune has been doing for Adam Hill. STOP THE PRESSES! Sell out Sandra Duerr has Team Adam Hill money in her pocket, and the Feds know it.

    (36) 42 Total Votes - 39 up - 3 down
    • kettle says:

      If the local paper is a newspaper monopoly, then any anti-competitive actions by them against a smaller paper (print or not) runs afoul of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act or the Clayton Antitrust Act,. California has its own act to cover some of this, Unfair Practices Act. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17021.

      So if a elected official pressured advertisers to stop advertising on CCN that would be one thing, but if any employee of the trib did the same or is involved in any such activity then the antitrust act kicks in.

      (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  2. Shocked in MB says:

    The problem with Freedom of information is that most people choose not to seek information. They listen to Daily Show and entertainment shows and consider that to be news.

    At least the LA times, although I disagree with most of its editorial positions, make an attempt at actually covering news.

    Today’s general populace can’t even name some of the top level leaders in this country or state. So much for the need for accurate information!

    (24) 26 Total Votes - 25 up - 1 down
  3. r0y says:

    The narrow mindedness of the DoJ is astonishing. It surely has to be some back-room shenanigans going on that led them to this… I cannot see how a monopoly in a printed paper is a monopoly on information at all.

    Sure, there might be a few older folks who just don’t like all those new-fangled electronic gizmos, but really, who even reads or (more importantly) TRUSTS newspapers anymore? Even my older, luddite-like liberal friends know not to trust the Trib (even though they still subscribe), and it is not their only source of lopsided, slanted news (NPR, periodicals – that are still in print, etc).

    Has everyone forgotten the Laffer Curve? I mean, it can easily be applied in industry: charge too much, revenue (and the business) goes away / charge too little, business goes away. As long as there are ALTERNATIVES, and there are plenty of alternatives.

    Online ads, radio (which I believe can be very effective, for the most part), television (I doubt advertisers get their money’s worth here), and product-placement / sponsorships (very nice, subtle form, when done right).

    (-3) 21 Total Votes - 9 up - 12 down
  4. Rambunctious says:

    They have a lot of time on their hands over at the DOJ since they put the Clinton investigation on hold.

    (13) 27 Total Votes - 20 up - 7 down
    • achillesheal says:

      They don’t investigate her. They only prosecute her based on the recommendations of the FBI. That said, they won’t prosecute regardless of even if the FBI turns up evidence that she murdered Vince Foster on her server – as long as she continues to kiss obama’s….ring.

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  5. Francesca Bolognini says:

    I am completely thrilled that the DOJ is actually DOING ITS JOB. The conglomeration of the major media is the reason we have much less democracy in this country. Freedom of the press and true journalism are the life blood of democracy. Without accurate information, there is no way that the public can make informed decisions to govern themselves. The corporatization of the media has led us from the position of a free press that was the envy of most of the world to being currently 49th (49th!!!!!) globally in journalistic freedom. That is the deffinition of an oligarchy right there. When a select, megawealthy few decide what you will be told. And in your heart, you know they do.

    When I was young, such control of information was completely illegal. Money has influenced both political parties to erode this freedom until, if it were not for the internet, we would have no truth whatsoever. And that freedom of the internet, “net neutrality” is under attack constantly from giants that would not have existed under past legislation, who would suck money from you with a straw for scraps of data and make sites pay through the nose to exist, making the internet truely accessable to large corporations only.

    We are being manipulated daily by limited and outright misinformation. We need the truth to function as a free country and we need the protection of the regulations that were once assurances of that flow of information. I think most of you would admit that the conglomeration of your phone service, for instance, has not led to enhanced customer service or better rates. It is not a Republican/Democrat issue, it is a FREEDOM issue.

    (25) 31 Total Votes - 28 up - 3 down
  6. Kevin Rice says:

    So, the government doesn’t want private industry to do what government does—have a monopoly, raise prices, eliminate competition, etc.

    (14) 42 Total Votes - 28 up - 14 down
  7. KimNorth says:

    Well I’m sure this has nothing to do with political leanings.

    (8) 16 Total Votes - 12 up - 4 down
    • hijinks says:

      I don’t get your point. Tribune (aka LA Times) is liberal and wants to purchase conservative papers and turn them liberal. So, why, then, would political leanings of the Obama administration have anything at all to do with uncle sam stopping the sale of conservative papers to an owner who intends to make them liberal? Seems you’ve got it backwards — that the admin is willing to do the right thing even if it might hurt them politically on the editorial pages. Facts are so inconvenient to ideological arguments, aren’t they?

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down

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