Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bush Administration May Have Decided Not To Pursue Media Monopoly For Tribune

The decision on the part of the Justice Department not to pursue the media monopoly so desired by the Tribune Co., in a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court may be a signpost on the way to eventual sale of the L.A. Times back to California interests.

But before we start rejoicing too much, it is possible the Tribune may still secure a waiver from the Bush Administration to allow it to own both the Times and Channel Five in Los Angeles. There are too many caveats in this decision to be confident the nightmare of Tribune ownership may be ending. Sly Tribune attorneys may yet find a way to preserve their media monopolies. They could even try taking the matter to the Supreme Court themselves, if they trusted their own abilities.

There were rumors, by the way, that Tribune hopes to maintain the original FCC decision for media monopolies, had something to do with the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of George Bush for reelection and the L.A. Times' decision not to endorse John Kerry. A high editor in Los Angeles told me in October he felt the Times was under Tribune pressure not to endorse Kerry for fear it could jeopardize the media monopoly..

The decision not to endorse exposed Michael Kinsley, editor of the Times editorial pages, to suspicions of rank hypocrisy, since the Times had blasted Bush for years before the election. It was embarrassing to Kinsley who had personally endorsed Kerry in a column in Time magazine around the time of the party conventions not to follow through with a Kerry endorsement in his own pages..

Which reminds me, what is the Times editorial pages editor doing writing an endorsement column for Time magazine anyway, or living and voting in Washington state, for that matter? I'd be very fond of him if he weren't such a ditz.

The idea that the Tribune Co. might eventually sell the Times may not be so wild as some of my friends seem to think. I was told by a well informed former Chicago newspaperman just last week that he heard the Tribune executives have expressed the opinion buying the Times has turned out to be a bad investment.

Chicagoans are pretty greedy. Anything that doesn't make 25 or 30% annual return is regarded as a bad investment. But still, it would be hard for the Tribune executives to admit publicly they had made a mistake.

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