The case for an FCC review of AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner weakened today: The entertainment company agreed to sell its independent Atlanta TV station — WPCH — to Meredith for $70 million.
The FCC will have to approve the TV station sale. But if there’s no hitch there, then Time Warner’s agreement with AT&T might not include a license that would fall under the FCC’s purview.
That could help the AT&T deal. If the Trump administration opposes it — the president said he did during last year’s election campaign — then it would be easier to attack at the FCC. The independent, quasi-judicial agency can fight mergers that it believes would hurt the public interest, which can be broadly defined.
If the FCC is out of the picture, then the deal would only have to pass muster with the Justice Department which could only oppose it if it finds an antitrust problem.
Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker says Meredith probably “got a good deal here since [Time Warner] was a motivated seller.” Meredith will have a duopoly in Atlanta with its CBS affiliate, WGCL. The two stations already have a local marketing agreement.
WPCH was better known as WTBS in the 1980s when Ted Turner turned it into a superstation, distributed to cable and satellite providers nationwide. Time Warner picked it up in 1996 when it bought Turner’s company, which also included CNN, TNT, and Cartoon Network.
In 2007 the call letters were changed to WPCH (it’s also called Peachtree TV), as the superstation evolved into a basic cable channel: TBS.