Dan McGraw in the Fort Worth Weekly has a feature on the current practice of the Dallas Morning News and the Star-Telegram to share arts reviews and sports coverage (a story which, ahem, we broke, I modestly add). New wrinkle that he brings up I haven’t seen before: whether or not this violates federal anti-trust laws.
When newspapers have JOAs or joint-operating agreements, they set out very specifically what business practices they will share — in most cases, printing or distribution duties. But the law that permits JOAs also expressly forbids sharing “editorial or reportorial staffs.”
In the opinion of several media antitrust experts, the current joint distribution deal and sharing of editorial content doesn’t quite cross the line. But further consolidation might. “It does raise some concerns,” said University of Wisconsin law professor Shubha Ghosh, an expert on media antitrust cases. “But you would have to prove who is harmed in this process. The readers probably are not, under the strict definition of the law. But if they start combining ad rates, competing media or those that buy the ads might have a case.”
And here’s an AP story with a broad overview of the practice and what it means/might mean.