A bankruptcy judge in Santa Ana this morning approved the sale of Freedom Communications Inc. and its Orange County Register to Denver-based Digital First Media Inc.

Digital First agreed to pay $52.3 million for the publisher, which also owns the Press-Enterprise in Riverside. The deal’s value could increase slightly based on the disposition of $3.5 million in accounts receivable.

Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, reluctantly withdrew its $56 million bid in the face of a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Digital First’s Los Angeles News Group, publisher of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Los Angeles Daily News and seven other daily newspapers, was renamed Southern California News Group and will now include the Register and Press-Enterprise, according to Ron Hasse, expanded group’s president and publisher.

“We become the largest news content provider in the combined counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino,” Hasse wrote in an email sent to employees after the court hearing. “SCNG now owns 11 Southern California daily newspapers and more than a dozen community weeklies, ranking among the top five nationally in Sunday circulation and among the top six daily … Today’s news provides us with an opportunity to offer expanded and enriched coverage to our readers and a broader platform for our advertisers to deliver their messages. It also ensures that newspaper competition remains, which ultimately makes us – and our products – better.”