The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., one of the country’s best-known department store companies, is the latest, and by far the largest, plaintiff to file suit against major U.S. media conglomerates, alleging a massive conspiracy to drive up the price of local television advertising. National plaintiffs’ law firm, DiCello Levitt & Casey, filed the class action lawsuit today on Bon-Ton’s behalf in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
The suit, which names Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Media Company and several other “John Doe” defendant co-conspirators, alleges that the companies violated federal antitrust laws by colluding to fix the rates TV stations charge for advertising airtime. Bon-Ton’s complaint is the newest in a series of suits brought against the media industry giants and is notable given the department store chain’s size relative to previous plaintiffs, most of whom are small regional businesses.
The suit alleges that Sinclair and Tribune, who are both owners of dozens of local television stations, while ostensibly competitors in the market for local spot television advertising, have instead conspired to reduce or eliminate competition by sharing information and coordinating pricing in various Designated Market Areas (DMAs), resulting in artificially inflated prices for local spot advertising in violation of federal antitrust laws.
“Through their price-fixing scheme, Tribune, Sinclair, and their co-conspirators have monopolized the airwaves and extorted millions of dollars from businesses like Bon-Ton,” said Adam J. Levitt, co-counsel for Bon-Ton and a founding partner of DiCello Levitt & Casey. “This lawsuit aims to hold these powerful companies accountable and restore free and fair competition.”
“The consolidation of the television industry has enabled a pattern of illegal, anti-competitive conduct, which we are confident this lawsuit will bring to light,” said John E. Tangren, co-counsel for Plaintiff and partner at DiCello Levitt & Casey.