DOJ Settles Suit Over Collusion on Television Ad Rates

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Justice Department has settled a lawsuit with six broadcast television networks it accused of unlawfully sharing “nonpublic” business information to set elevated ad time rates.

In a lawsuit filed along with the settlement in the federal court in Washington, D.C., the department said the sharing of information eliminated the competition advertisers rely on to obtain reasonable advertising rates.

“This unlawful sharing of information lessened that competition and thereby harmed the local businesses and the consumers they serve,” the department said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The named defendants: Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Media, Raycom Media Inc., Meredith Corporation, Griffin Communications and Dreamcatcher Broadcasting LLC are now forbidden from sharing any “non-public” information on advertising markets and sales for seven years.

According to the government, Sinclair and the other companies gained leverage over the very advertisers they negotiated with by sharing information which compare revenues the companies booked for a certain time period in comparison to the previous year.

It’s called “pacing” and it can show how a station is performing against the rest of the market, the government asaid..

No fines will be levied on the companies and according to the department; the settlement also requires all six businesses to cooperate with ongoing antitrust investigation.

In a statement to Courthouse News on Tuesday, Raycom’s vice president of marketing Lec Coble said they have “seen no evidence that the alleged information sharing had any actual competitive impact in any advertising market.”

Coble also made clear that the settlement is not an acknowledgement of any wrongdoing.

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