Time Warner Cable, DirecTV Ask FCC to Restrict Gannett’s Deal for Belo

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The American Cable Assn., Time Warner Cable and DirecTV are objecting to a part of Gannett’s proposed $2.2 billion acquisition of Belo Corp.’s broadcast stations, saying that the deal threatens to drive up retransmission fees and risk even more station blackouts in negotiation standoffs.

Their objections were raised in a filing with the FCC, which is considering the transfer of five Belo stations in St. Louis, Phoenix and Tucson markets to Sander Operating Co. and Tucker Operating Co. The ACA, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV say that such a transfer is a means to rely on “a series of shills or ‘third-party sidecars” and get around rules limiting ownership of stations in the same market.

They contend that although the transaction calls for Gannett to divest Belo’s TV assets in the three markets, “Gannett will retain effective control of all of these stations through various sharing agreements under which it will establish duopolies in each” city. They contend that Gannett’s agreements with Sander and Tucker will result in “collusive negotiations” of retransmission agreements in St. Louis, Phoenix and Tucson. As an example, they said that under an agreement that Gannett “intends to execute” with Sander and Tucker in the Tucson market, Gannett would be the agent for them for restrans or other distribution agreements.

ACA, Times Warner Cable and DirecTV are asking the FCC to either deny the transfer of licenses, or impose conditions to restrict the coordination of negotiation of retrans deals.

The stations at issue are KMOV-TV in St. Louis, KTVK-TV and KASW-TV in Phoenix and KMSB-TV and KTTU-TV in Tucson.

Gannett’s deal for Belo will nearly double its broadcast holdings from 23 stations to 43, with stations in 21 of the top 25 markets.

Update: In a statement, a spokesman for Gannett said, “The transaction is entirely consistent will all FCC rules, policies and precedent, and will bring substantial benefits to the public.”

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  1. I never thought I would say this……but I actually agree with the FCC on the part of the FCC’s television duopoly rule regarding having one company or person own more than one of the top four rated TV stations in the same market i.e. KMOV News 4 and KSDK NewsChannel 5 in St. Louis. I believe that, if the FCC approves this deal as constituted now and not force Gannett to sell KMOV-TV in St. Louis, KTVK-TV and KASW-TV in Phoenix and KMSB-TV and KTTU-TV in Tucson to Broadcast companies or individuals with ABSOLUTE NO TIES to Gannett and Belo instead of essential subsidiaries of Gannett i.e. Sander Operating Co. and Tucker Operating Co., it will set one of the most dangerous precedents that I have ever seen set in the Broadcast industry!

  2. jamesjimcie says:

    My idea for trading and swapping assets with other broadcast group so the Gannett/Belo broadcasting group merger could proceed with concessions and conditions I prefer to see with 6 Belo TV stations going to other broadcasting groups with stations from other broadcasting groups going to Gannett that I would like to see them being able to own those stations without any interference and difficulties and In a few cases for both competitive and geographical reasons.

    3 way swap with KTVK(regains ABC affiliation) to from a duopoly with KNXV(becomes
    independent), and WHAS to Scripps, KASW to form a duopoly with KPHO to Meredith, and WNEM to Gannett

    KMSB/KTTU to Tribune for KDAF to form a duopoly with WFAA, KIAH to form a
    duopoly with KHOU, KFSM/KXNW, WTVR, and WDCW to form a duopoly with WUSA

    KMOV to CBS for WTOG to form a duopoly with WSTP

    From other broadcasting group merger not related to the Gannett/Belo merger deal:

    Young/Media General as Media General:

    3 way swap with KRON(regains NBC affiliation) to NBC, KNTV(goes independent with KOFY getting MYNET affiliation) to Tribune, and WGHP, and WTVK/WGNT to Media
    General

    KELO to Meredith for WFSB, and WSHM LD

    KWQC to Quincy for WVVA

    WBAY to Sinclair for WWHO to form a duopoly with WCMH, WTTA to form a duopoly with WFLA, and WGME

    WLAJ to Journal for WFTX

    Tribune/Local TV LLC as Tribune:

    WHNT to LIN for KOIN to form a duopoly with KRCW

    • Robbie says:

      To James…I don’t think Scripps will be giving up the ABC affiliation to KTVK (after they effectively made it so that Baltimore screwed Westinghouse and caused a second Affiliation shuffle there). Also, with Your Columbus idea…there’s too few stations to legally permit it (Because Sinclair, though Cunningham has an effective duopoly in WSYX, and WTTE in Columbus…and WBFF and WNUV in Baltimore). For what Gannett wants…there’s two fatal flaws, and valid points. First, the rules say that even if there’s a lot of rules in markets like St. Luis. First, KMOV is a top 4 station…and KSDK is owned by Gannett, so that’s problem one. Problem 2. Unless in Phoenix and Flagstaff Gannett backs off and divest, or if the stations involved need a failed station waiver (which i think isn’t the case here). They cannot have 3 stations in one market (a Triopoly). Unfortunately, that is very rare as Sinclair operates WWHO after Lin media sold, and Raycom has the same arrangement in Hawaii, and also in Scranton.

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