Monday, May 04, 2009

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Antitrust Exemption for Newspapers

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy held a hearing on "A New Age for Newspapers: Diversity of Voices, Competition and the Internet" on April 21.

The subcommittee heard from newspaper industry executives and journalists, as well as from Carl Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economics at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division.

There were calls for and against antitrust exemptions for newspapers. Brian Tierney, Chief Executive Officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings—the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News—advocated expedited merger review for newspaper combinations and limited antitrust relief to enable publishers to discuss innovative business models.

Shapiro spoke of the need for continued antitrust enforcement in the newspaper industry to ensure that "American consumers obtain more innovative and high-quality goods and services at lower prices." He said that "vigorous antitrust enforcement will guarantee that this important industry will be as competitive as possible, and that American consumers will have available to them more, rather than fewer, options for getting news and information."

Merger review under the Clayton Act and the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 (NPA) was explained. The NPA exempts from antitrust liability certain types of joint newspaper operations for two or more newspapers with separate staffs and independent editorial policies.

Shapiro noted that NPA does not grant an unlimited antitrust exemption and that "there is nothing in the text or the legislative history of the NPA suggesting that Congress intended to immunize the acquisition by one [joint operating agreement] partner of the other partner's newspaper."

Written statements of witnesses appear here on the website of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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