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END STAR SUIT BY AGREEMENT

DATE OF EVENT: Friday, Nov. 15, 1957

DATE PUBLISHED: Friday, Nov. 15, 1957, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: As the media landscape expanded in the first half of the 20th century to include television and radio, The Star’s news dominance grew as well. Through its newspapers and WDAF-TV and WDAF radio stations, the company built a local monopoly.

Smaller publishers brought an antitrust action against the Kansas City Star Co. in the 1950s, alleging that its executives had threatened businesses that advertised with competitors.

In January 1953, a federal grand jury indicted the company, plus its president, Roy A. Roberts, and Emil Sees, the newspaper’s advertising director, for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Charges against Roberts were dismissed. But The Star entered into a consent decree. Sees was fined.

The consent decree forced The Star to give up half of its holdings. The company chose to sell the TV and radio stations.

The 1957 decree was lifted in 1999. Since then, The Star has acquired several smaller newspapers, among them The Olathe News and The Lee’s Summit Journal.

A settlement in the form of a consent decree in the civil antitrust suit against The Star was filed in the federal district court here today. This ends all litigation brought by the government.

An agreement was presented to Judge Richard M. Duncan by attorneys for The Star and for the Department of Justice. It was signed and approved by Judge Duncan and then filed with the clerk of the court.

The decree states in the first paragraph that the defendants “have appeared and filed their answers to said complaint denying the substantive allegations thereof” and that counsel for both sides have “consented to the entry of this final judgment without adjudication of any issue of fact or law herein and without admission by any party with respect to any such issue.”…

The filling of the decree was announced here by The Star in a statement…

The Star’s statement: …

“With the filing of a consent decree in the United States District court here today, the long anti-trust litigation between the government and The Star is closed…

“Under its terms The Star believes it can continue to serve this community effectively and aggressively. It believes it can because the decree specifically preserves the principle of the 12-hour paper, giving fresh news twice a day at low cost to the subscriber. This service, unique with The Star, has been historically the fundamental basis of is operation more than half a century.

“Summed up, the decree provides for these things:

“Permanently enjoins certain business practices challenged by the government but which The Star contends did not represent a pattern of The Star’s business conduct; validation of voluntary combination rates in both advertising and circulation, but the ending of enforced circulation rates; acceptance of the twelve-hour service; and finally, that within a reasonable time The Star shall dispose of its television and radio holdings.

“With final disposition of the criminal anti-trust case (a misdemeanor) from a practical standpoint the civil case resolved down largely to the terms of the injunctive relief asked by the government. That has been finally negotiated by mutual agreement. With The Star, paramount in the negotiations was preservation of its superb service to readers of news twice a day. Without waiting for a final agreement, several months ago The Star put into affect voluntary combination advertising rates. Such further steps as are necessary to comply with the decree will be taken before its effective date, ninety days from today.

“Upon the sale of its television and radio properties The Star will leave this field with real regret. The Star was a pioneer in radio and brought the first national network to Kansas City. Again it pioneered in television, starting operation when there was only a handful of sets in Kansas City and building up a listening audience of more than 360,000 sets before other stations entered the field.

The Star takes satisfaction that in all the long years of its bitterly fought case never was there a suggestion that it had taken advantage of its position to ‘gouge’ the public. If anything, the complaint seemed to be that it sold its services too cheaply.

“From its founding days under Colonel Nelson, The Star has been through many battles. It expects to be through many, many more for the community and the causes in which it believes. With the oppressive burden of this harassing litigation off its back after all these years, The Star looks ahead to the challenging future with confidence.”…

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