The FCC probably will be able to avoid making a judgment on AT&T’s $85 billion agreement to buy Time Warner following its approval today of the entertainment giant’s deal to sell its single TV station — Atlanta’s WPCH — to Meredith Corp. for $70 million.
Regulators noted that the application to transfer the license was “granted” but made no additional comment.
That could help the dealmakers. The FCC has a broad mandate to determine whether transactions it reviews serve the public. If the FCC is out of the picture, then AT&T and Time Warner simply have to satisfy the Justice Department that their union would not significantly reduce competition.
Time Warner has other licenses besides the one held by WPCH. But they involve technical, mostly backhaul, functions and either might not have to be sold to AT&T or can be replaced by distribution technologies that don’t use the public airwaves.
Meredith has operated WPCH for six years via joint sales and joint services agreements.
The independent broadcast outlet 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 known as Peachtree TV), as the superstation evolved into a basic cable channel: TBS.