FCC Okays Modified Sinclair-Allbritton Deal

The commission says that Sinclair satisfied concerns about the deal violating ownership rules by selling its Harrisburg station and giving up its licenses to stations in Birmingham and Charleston, shifting programming to other stations it already owns. Sinclair will end up with ABC affiliates in six additional market after the $958 million deal is done.
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The FCC late yesterday approved Sinclair Broadcast Group's  $985 million purchase of eight ABC affiliates in seven markets from Allbritton Communications, saying it was satisfied with changes Sinclair had made to comply with the agency's newly tightened local ownership rules.

The grant "exemplifies the careful scrutiny the [FCC] will provide to broadcast transactions that propose new combinations of sharing arrangements and financial entanglements between a dominant licensee and a so-called sidecar entity," said FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake in a statement.

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Sinclair agreed to buy the Allbritton group a year ago, but the deal got bogged down at the FCC after the agency in March banned the use of shared services and joint sales agreement to operate second stations in small markets where the rules say broadcasters may only own one.

In its original deal, Sinclair proposed using SSAs and JSAs in three or the seven Allbritton markets where it already owned stations: Harrisburg, Pa.: Birmingham, Ala.; and Charleston, S.C.

Recognizing the new realities at the FCC, Sinclair said it would try to spin off the Allbritton stations in the three markets to unaffiliated third parties. It sold WHTM Harrisburg, Pa. to Media General for $83.4 million.

But unable to find buyers for the stations in Birmingham (WCFT and WJSU) and Charleston (WCIV), it said it would simply give up their licenses and move their programming, including that of ABC, to stations it owned in the markets -- WABM in Birmingham and WMMP in Charleston.

Brand Connections

To appease the FCC, Sinclair also agreed to terminate the local marketing agreement in Charleston between WMMP and Cunningham Broadcasting's WTAT. "There would be no sharing arrangement or contingent financial interests between Sinclair and Cunningham," Sinclair said.

The FCC was not fully convince that WTAT would operate independently of WMMP, however.

"Given the extensive and longstanding past relationship between WTAT-TV and WMMP(TV), we believe a reporting condition is also necessary to safeguard competition in Charleston," the FCC said in its grant of the deal.

 "We require that, for a period of eight years, Cunningham report on quarterly basis to the Media Bureau any formal or informal sharing arrangements involving services provided to WTAT-TV by other stations in the market or by licensees, other entities, or individuals who hold an attributable interest in another station in the market. "

Public interest groups opposed to media consolidation praised the FCC for its strict enforcement of its local ownership limits.

"We commend the FCC for reshaping the worst aspects of this deal, and for refusing to act on Sinclair's applications until it complied with the both the spirit and the letter of the law," said Lauren Wilson of Free Press.

"Sinclair fought to extend its covert consolidation campaign, but the public interest won the day. The FCC has clearly signaled to Sinclair and others that it intends to enforce local ownership limits and protect local communities."

Andy Schwartzman of the Georgetown Law Center sounded much the same note.

"Finally, the FCC has begun to address the schemes that Sinclair Broadcast Group and a few other group owners have used to evade the Commissions TV ownership rules, he said.

"We don't need more consolidation, and I certainly don't relish the prospect of Sinclair's cost-cutters taking over a network affiliate in Washington, D.C. However, the FCC took steps to stop Sinclair's blatant abuse of the ownership rules, and I hope this augers well for the future."

Schwartzman's reference to a station in Washington is WJLA, the flagship of the Allbritton group. The ABC affiliate will become the largest-market station in the Sinclair vast portfolio.

In the Allbritton deal, Sinclair is also picking up KATV  Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.; KTUL Tulsa, Okla.; and WSET Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va.

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Comments (4) -

dantheflash2011 Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Too Late, Sinclair will become Largest ABC Affitited in the country
HopeUMakeit Nickname posted over 2 years ago
these mega groups are giving away broadcast reach to apease a spreadsheet vision of "wait until the next election" and re-trans revenue profit generation.
titanic Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Is New Age/Sinclair next in line for approval? anyone think that deal can get done soon?
MobileVortex Nickname posted over 2 years ago
I'm more interested in the Nextstar - Marshall Broadcasting agreement.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
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    1.6/6
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    1.2/4
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    0.9/3
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    0.6/2
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    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

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  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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