Last Minute Anti-Trust Division Action Stops Tribune Monopoly Plans
by Ed Murray
Dateline: Orange County
As we reported earlier, the Los Angeles Times has some big plans to extend their newspaper monopoly to the entire Southern California region. In a previous article entitled: The Los Angeles Times, the Shameful Showboat of a Powerful Press Monopoly, we wrote that the Tribune Company, owner of both the San Diego Union and the L.A. Times, was sneaking around the bankruptcy court hearings offering to loan the owners of the Riverside Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register 3 million dollars at no interest to tide them over for a while until the bankruptcy court held an auction, where they planned to buy up the Register and the Press Telegram. Here’s what we said:
“Things have since become even stranger, when the Orange County Register filed for bankruptcy late last year. The same company also owns the Riverside Press Telegram. So here comes the Tribune, now owner of the Times and San Diego Union, offering a 3 million dollar loan at zero interest rate to the company that owns the Register and Press-Telegram. This would give them a crack at buying the two papers out of bankruptcy, and thus increase their monopoly over all of Southern California. If that works out, the Tribune will own the Times, the San Diego Union, The Riverside Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register. Any beginning psychic can see more layoffs, consolidated printing, consolidated news, and immense power over the entire Southland. Oh, and the big hurt on real freedom of the press.”
Plot Foiled by Alert Anti-Trust Attorneys
Luckily for the entire population of the Southland, the Anti-Trust Division of the Justice Department was paying attention to all this. Today, March 17, 2006, the Justice Department filed suit to block this outrageous monopoly grab by the Tribune Company. Below is the complete Press Release from the Department of Justice:
Justice Department Files Antitrust Lawsuit to Stop L.A. Times Publisher from Acquiring Competing Newspapers
Acquisition Would Monopolize Newspapers in Orange and Riverside Counties in California
The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today seeking to block the acquisition by Tribune Publishing Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, of Freedom Communications Inc., publisher of the Register in Orange County, California, and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside County, California. Tribune was selected as purchaser of Freedom’s newspapers following a bankruptcy auction and will seek bankruptcy court approval of its acquisition on March 21. The department is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale to Tribune from proceeding.
According to the department’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and the Register together account for 98 percent of newspaper sales in Orange County and the Los Angeles Times and Freedom’s newspapers together account for 81 percent of English-language newspaper sales in Riverside County. Tribune’s acquisition of its most significant competitor would give it a monopoly over newspaper sales in each county and allow it 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 Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Newspapers 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.”
Tribune Publishing Company is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Chicago. It publishes 11 major daily newspapers across California, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
If Not Blocked, Newspaper Competition Will Be Eliminated
The Justice Department did make one small error in that in Los Angeles and San Diego, newspaper competition is already defacto non-existent and has been for decades due to the Times either buying up their competition or secretly financing certain owners of “competing” papers that won’t really compete. If this bankruptcy sale goes through, the Tribune will “own” the Southland. It’s not just the advertising revenue that is at stake, it is the cultural control and even more important, the political control. Which candidates, for instance, will get “press coverage”, and which candidates will be endorsed by the Tribune political tribunal? We sincerely hope that the Justice Department is successful in their efforts to prevent this press monopoly from going any further.