Tribune responds to DOJ attempt to stop OC Register acquisition
Tribune Publishing filing argues that ‘in today’s digital world with its plethora of sources of news content’ notions of what a newspaper monopoly means are ‘antiquated’
The Tribune Company has objected to the Department of Justice’s request for a temporary restraining order that would keep the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union Tribune from seeking Bankruptcy Court approval of its auction win of the assets of Freedom Communications, including the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Tribune’s filing says a delay may allow another bidder to win the newspaper properties, or force a liquidation.
“That does not preserve the status quo – it destroys it,” Tribune’s lawyers say.
Shortly after the Tribune’s winning auction bid was announced on Thursday following the Wednesday auction, the DOJ filed its objection.
“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.
“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,” the DOJ claims.
“Tribune’s interest in purchasing the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise cannot have been a surprise to the government,” Tribune’s filing states today. “Its interest in acquiring Freedom’s assets through the Bankruptcy Court process has been open and notorious for months. It has been the subject of national press reports as well as local press reports in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.”
“Yet, the government showed no interest in the natter until March 8, 2016, just days before the schedule auction. Now, at the eleventh hour, the DOJ seeks to permanently destroy the Tribune’s ability to acquire these assets, relying on antiquated notions of the relevant market and what competition means in the newspaper industry in today’s digital world with its plethora of sources of news content and advertising platforms,” the filing argues.