The Utah attorney general’s office is investigating the renegotiated joint-operating agreement between The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.
Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, confirmed Friday night that they have an open investigation into the JOA, but she could not offer further details.
Citizens for Two Voices, a group that includes former Tribune employees, said in a statement that members met with attorneys from the AG’s office "to discuss the group’s allegation that the newspaper agreement violates antitrust law."
"We welcome an inquiry by the State," said Karra Porter, attorney for Citizens for Two Voices, in the statement. "The State of Utah has a strong interest in maintaining diverse media voices and protecting consumers."
Citizens for Two Voices also filed a lawsuit on Monday asking a federal judge to immediately halt financial dealings between the two newspapers. The group argues that the deal threatens the Tribune’s survival. The suit argues that the papers’ new business deal, which took effect Jan. 1, slashed in half The Tribune’s revenues from the partnership, sold its share in printing facilities and gave the News control over the newspapers’ joint operations.
The new pact also grants managers at the News veto power over anyone interesting in buying The Tribune. More crucially, the deal deprives The Tribune of money it needs to survive, the lawsuit claims.
The renegotiated business pact has drawn the attention of the Department of Justice as well, which is scrutinizing the JOA.
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