Tribune Won’t Get Orange County Register

Looks like Digital First Media, not Tribune Publishing, will get to purchase Freedom Communications newspapers, which publishes the Orange County Register and Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise out of bankruptcy.

The Department of Justice last week sought and got a restraining order from a judge last week to block Tribune's purchase of the Register out of bankruptcy.

On Monday, the bankruptcy court pivoted and approved Digital First as the purchaser of Freedom.

“Many Americans depend on local newspapers even in this age of electronic information,” assistant attorney general Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “As Judge Birotte held in his well-reasoned opinion, newspapers play an important role in our democracy.  Preventing the Los Angeles Times from combining with the Register and the Press-Enterprise will ensure that citizens and advertisers in Southern California continue to benefit from competition and from a diversity of views in their local news coverage.  The Antitrust Division will remain vigilant in protecting competition in this important industry.”  

Tribune has separated its print and broadcast properties, so DOJ's issue had not been with crossownership, but instead how much print advertising and circulation a combined Los Angeles Times and Register would control, and the DOJ said it was too much.

Digital First has over 800 news and ad and directory platforms, just not the big newspaper or TV and radio stations that DOJ tends to look at to determine how powerful a media combo will be.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.