LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) — The Department of Justice is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Tribune Publishing Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, from acquiring Freedom Communications Inc., publisher of The Register in Orange County and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside County.

Tribune was selected to purchase Freedom’s newspapers after Freedom filed for bankruptcy and its holdings went up for auction.

According to the Justice Department, if the sale happens, Tribune would own 98 percent of newspaper circulation in Orange County and 81 percent of Riverside County. The department believes this would be anti-competitive, giving Tribune a monopoly over newspapers in Los Angeles and allowing it to increase subscription rates, raise advertising and invest less to maintain quality.

“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.”

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