The FCC last week signed off on Gannett’s $1.7 billion purchase of Multimedia Co.

Though overshadowed by a series of bombshell mega-mergers announced earlier in the year, the new Gannett- Multimedia combo represents a potent media force with which to be reckoned.

The merged company becomes the seventh-largest TV group owner in the nation with 15 stations and 14.1% of national audience reach. Gannett also will hold 20 radio stations, USA Today and 82 other newspapers, and rights to programs such as “Donahue” and “Sally Jesse Raphael.”

Though current FCC rules bar a company from owning more than 12 TV stations, Gannett is counting on Congress lifting that rule as part of sweeping telecommunications deregulation legislation that is pending in a House-Senate conference committee. Otherwise, the company has told the FCC it will unload three TV stations: WMAZ-TV Macon, Ga., KOCO-TV Oklahoma City, and WLWT-TV Cincinnati.

Limits in limbo

Congress may lift rules that bar broadcast/newspaper combinations in the same market and rules that limit the common ownership of two stations and radio/TV stations in the same locale.

Gannett sought 18-month waivers of the multiple-ownership rules as it awaits the fate of the telecom bill; the FCC settled on waivers of 12 months.

Gannett also has told the FCC it plans to dispose of two Macon, Ga., radio stations: WMAZ-AM and WAYS-FM.

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