No newspaper antitrust

If newspapers try to collude to on pricing of their content, I hope we can get help to fight them on antitrust grounds. Any media groups ready to take this to court on the off chance that newspaper companies have learned to cooperate?

Mind you, I defended news companies in their efforts to consolidate in the past. This, I’ve long said, was a case of the dinosaurs huddling together against the cold wind of change. Let them conglomerate, I said, because otherwise their outlets will die sooner. Indeed, media consolidation turned out to be not a problem at all – witness the falls of all the conglomerates from Tribune to Clear Channel.

But independent companies conspiring to set and fix prices is different. It is nothing short of price fixing. It is antimarket collusion. There’s a reason the newspapers who sat down to conspire had an antitrust lawyer with them – because they know they are on shaky ground.

Whatever an individual company does with its own products – if it’s foolish and suicidal enough to shrink its audience in times like these – well, fine, that’s their business. But if they try to affect the larger economy by their conspiracy, that’s different. That needs to be challenged. Poor-mouthing and decades of bad management of monopolies is not a sufficient excuse for antitrust today.

Then again, maybe we shouldn’t fight them. The sooner the dinosaurs kills themselves, the sooner the next news species will walk the earth.

: See also Scott Rosenberg on cartels.