Bankruptcy Court Approves Alternative Purchaser of Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise
Decision Follows TRO Halting Anticompetitive Sale to Owner of L.A. Times
Today, the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California approved Digital First Media as the purchaser of Freedom Communications Inc., publisher of the Register in Orange County and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside County, California. After Tribune Publishing Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, had attempted to emerge as the winning bidder in the bankruptcy proceeding, the Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit seeking to block Tribune from acquiring Freedom Communications on March 17, 2016. The next day, the Honorable André Birotte Jr., a federal judge in Los Angeles, granted the department’s application for a temporary restraining order to prevent Tribune from acquiring Freedom Communications pending further proceedings.
“Many Americans depend on local newspapers even in this age of electronic information,” said 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.”
In his ruling granting the department’s application for a temporary restraining order, Judge Birotte found that “local newspapers continue to serve a unique function in the marketplace: they are the creators of local content. It further stands to reason that local advertisers in search of print advertising would choose to advertise with local news providers.”