Deal Pipeline, which tracks mergers and acquisitions across the country, notes today that Friday's Federal Communications Commission's approval of Gannett Co. Inc.'s $1.5 billion purchase of Belo Corp. and its 20 stations bodes well for another TV deal still in the hopper: Sinclair Broadcast Group's $985 million bid for Allbritton Communication Corp.'s stable of ABC affiliates, including KATV-TV, Channel 7, of Little Rock.
Why? Because both the Gannett and Sinclair purchases make use of joint sales and shared services agreements that allow them to operate multiple stations in single markets.
The FCC's rulings are good news not just for Gannett and Local TV, but also for Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and its $985 million plan to buy the eight television stations owned by Allbritton Communications Co. That deal would put Sinclair over the FCC's ownership cap in three markets where it already has stations -- Charleston, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., and Harrisburg, Pa. -- so Sinclair plans to spin off those outlets to Deerfield Media Inc. and Howard Stirk Holdings LLC while still providing services to those stations.
In December, the FCC's Media Bureau alleged that the so-called "sidecar" deal embedded in the Sinclair/Allbritton purchase would violate agency rules. That was good news to some media watchdogs and other nonprofits who had filed formal complaints against the acquisition.
But Sinclair has said it doesn't expect the FCC request to pose a problem for the Allbritton deal. And judging by Friday's FCC approvals, they might indeed be correct.
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