Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pasties and a G-Man

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pasties and a G-Man

Article excerpt

Does the U.S. Department of Justice really have so little to do it must investigate why a couple of alternatives were folded?

Somebody has to speak up for the beleaguered legions of strip clubs, massage parlors, and escort services in Los Angeles that find themselves at the mercy of a monopolistic alternative tabloid -- and that somebody, apparently, is the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

That, anyway, is the impression you'd get from a report last week in the Los Angeles Times. Culture writer Tim Rutten wrote that Justice has opened a "serious investigation" into whether antitrust laws were violated by the early October deal between NT Media LLC, which folded New Times Los Angeles and publishes Cleveland Scene, and Village Voice Media LLC, which shut down Cleveland Free Times and publishes LA Weekly. The chains passed some cash between themselves, and each agreed to kill the lagging alternative paper it published in the other's market.

If the L.A. Times report is correct, this investigation is serious, indeed. Former New Times L.A. employees are being interviewed by deputy U.S. attorneys -- a sign, according to an antitrust specialist quoted by Rutten, that the government is thinking "beyond civil penalties to criminal prosecution."

As near as anybody can figure, the "crime" appears to be depriving adult- entertainment advertisers of the opportunity to play one alternative paper against the other. One can only imagine the press conference in which Attorney General John Ashcroft -- standing in front of the blue curtain he installed to hide the statue of a topless Spirit of Justice -- denounces the nefarious NT Media/Voice Media cartel for driving up advertising costs of the 4-Play Gentlemen's Club or Lady Laura's Dominion. …

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