The TV station deals, both announced over the summer, now are cleared to close. Gannett, which owns 23 stations, will pay $1.5B (not including $715M in debt) to add Belo’s 20 outlets. The owner of USA Today is already the No. 1 owner of NBC affiliates (not including the network-owned group), and will become the No. 1 outside owner of CBS stations and No. 4 with ABC. It also will reach about 30% of all TV owners. Meanwhile, Tribune’s $2.73B acquisition of Local TV gives it an additional 16 stations to the 23 it already owns. The combination will reach about 44% of viewers which Tribune says makes it “the largest combined independent broadcast group and content creator in the country.” Already the top owner of CW stations, it now also has the largest portfolio of Fox affiliates. CEO Peter Liguori says that the deal reflects his view that “in a fragmenting media landscape, there is value in scale, for our viewers, advertisers, networks, cable and satellite partners and, most important, the communities we serve.” But activist group Free Press charged that the regulators enabled Gannett and Tribune to make deals that “run afoul of the FCC’s media ownership limits” in several markets including Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Louisville; Norfolk, Va.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and St. Louis. “These kinds of deals shutter newsrooms and silence competing viewpoints, harming local service, diversity and competition in media markets across the country,” the group’s CEO Craig Aaron says. “Gannett and Tribune use shell companies, shady arrangements and accounting tricks to keep total control over broadcast licenses they can’t hold in their own names. They brag to investors and Wall Street analysts about how they can dodge the FCC’s cross-ownership limits and get away with it.”
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