Northcliffe's bid to buy the Radstock & Midsomer Norton Journal in Somerset has been refused consent by competition minister Gerry Sutcliffe.
The minister turned down the takeover because of the strength of Northcliffe's titles in the Bristol and Bath area. He said: "I have decided to refuse this transfer because it would reinforce Northcliffe's already strong position in the local market of Midsomer Norton and Radstock. The other key titles in the area are the free weekly Bath Times and the paid-for weekly Standard and Guardian series - both owned by Northcliffe.
"Both of these Northcliffe titles currently compete with the Journal and focus on Northcliffe's heartlands in and around Bristol and Bath. This transfer would help Northcliffe protect its position in these areas."
The Journal is owned by George Donkin and Steve Shipley.