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03-17-09, 05:01 PM #1
Pelosi goes to bat to keep Bay Area papers alive by asking the Justice Department for leeway on rules...campaigning for votes maybe?House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, worried about the fate of The Chronicle and other financially struggling newspapers, urged the Justice Department Monday to consider giving Bay Area papers more leeway to merge and consolidate business operations to stay afloat.In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, released by Pelosi's office late Monday, the San Francisco Democrat asked the department to weigh the public benefit of saving The Chronicle and other papers from closure against the agency's antitrust mission to guard against anti-competitive behavior.
"We must ensure that our policies enable our news organizations to survive and to engage in the news gathering and analysis that the American people expect," Pelosi wrote.
The speaker said the issue of newspapers' survival and antitrust law will be the subject of a hearing soon before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, chaired by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
Pelosi's spokesman, Brendan Daly, said the speaker was moved by the recent announcement by the Hearst Corp., the parent company of The Chronicle, that it would be forced to sell or close the paper if it could not achieve major cost-savings quickly. Hearst has said the paper lost $50 million last year and that this year's losses will probably be worse.
The Chronicle's largest union, representing nearly 500 employees, ratified a contract Saturday that will clear the way for at least 150 job cuts while also eliminating certain rights and benefits. Another Hearst paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, will cease publication today and become a Web-only news outlet, Hearst said Monday.
"She's been a big fan of newspapers her whole life," Daly said. "She wants to ensure their survival, but is also very concerned about antitrust laws. We have to make sure we follow the well-established guidelines of the Justice Department."
Pelosi released the two-page letter after meeting in her Capitol office last week with Chronicle at-large editor Phil Bronstein and Hearst general counsel Eve Burton, where they discussed the future of the paper and federal media shield legislation.
In the carefully worded letter, Pelosi urged the Justice Department to take a broader view of media competition in the Bay Area. Rather than seeing The Chronicle's main competitors as other newspapers, she urged the department to consider television and Internet media sources and online advertising outlets as competitors as part of any future antitrust review.
A more expansive view of competition could smooth the way for future discussions of a merger or a consolidation of advertising, distribution and other business operations between The Chronicle and the Bay Area News Group, which owns the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune. Hearst has a nearly one-third stake in the non-Bay Area papers of MediaNews, the Denver chain that owns the Bay Area News Group.
"I am confident that the Antitrust Division, in assessing any concerns that any proposed mergers or other arrangements in the San Francisco area might reduce competition, will take into appropriate account, as relevant, not only the number of daily and weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, but also the other sources of news and advertising outlets available in the electronic and digital age, so that the conclusions reached reflect current market realities," Pelosi wrote.
"This is consistent with antitrust enforcement in recent years under both Republican and Democratic administrations. And the result will be to allow free market forces to preserve as many news sources, as many viewpoints, and as many jobs as possible."
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said Monday night that the department had received the letter, but would not comment further. "We will respond as appropriate," she said.
Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer could not be reached for comment Monday night.
03-17-09, 06:50 PM #2Master OfficerVerified LEO
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Bay Area newspapers? Funny that slag did not say anything when the Rocky Mountain News shut down.Un-ass my AO!!
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