The Federal Communications Commission has approved a deal that will give Sinclair Broadcast Group control of the Allbritton Communications TV stations, Reuters reports.
The panel OK’d the $985 million deal between the two companies Thursday, with conditions including a number of divestitures.
“The FCC’s Media Bureau said Sinclair will divest the TV station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and give up the licenses of Allbritton stations in Birmingham, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina, delivering programming there through so-called multi-casting on the signal of stations Sinclair already owns,” the story reports. “Sinclair will also terminate a sharing arrangement in Charleston, South Carolina, the FCC said. Also, the originally proposed sidecar arrangements with Howard Stirk Holdings and Deerfield will not be included in the transaction, the regulators said.”
The report notes that Sinclair had proposed the concessions earlier this year as part of its deal with the Allbritton family, as the FCC was coming down on stations that share their advertising staffs.
“The FCC, in a 3-2 vote with a Democratic majority, banned such joint services agreements in March, arguing it allowed companies to effectively control more than two TV stations in a market, which is prohibited by FCC rules,” Reuters reports.
In a statement Thursday, FCC Media Bureau Chief William Lake said the deal’s approval “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.”
Lake added: “The Media Bureau has demonstrated clearly that it will not allow such combined arrangements to undermine the local TV ownership rule, which is in place to ensure competition and diverse voices on the airwaves.”
“Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said on Thursday that the three stations in Birmingham and Charleston that will have to go dark were ‘victims’ of the FCC’s crackdown,” the Reuters report notes. “He added that the move might hurt, not promote diversity as the FCC hopes.
“Of the Charleston WCIV TV station, Pai said: ‘Apparently the Commission believes that it is better for that station to go out of business than for Howard Stirk Holdings to own the station and participate in a joint sales agreement with Sinclair,’ explaining that Howard Stirk is an African-American owned broadcast company.”