WASHINGTON -- On Monday, The Tribune Company announced that it had agreed to acquire 19 television stations from Local TV Holdings LLC. Tribune is buying the stations, located in 16 markets, for more than $2.7 billion in cash. The Federal Communications Commission must approve the deal.
If approved, the acquisition would leave Tribune in control of 42 stations across the country, including at least two stations in nine individual markets. Tribune would be one of the five biggest chains in audience reach and advertising revenue. The news follows Gannett's $1.5 billion takeover last month of Belo and a series of major acquisitions from Sinclair Broadcasting.
The deal would cement Tribune’s control of multiple stations in Denver and St. Louis, at stations already operating with Local TV under “shared services agreements,” where stations owned by the two companies operate a single newsroom. Gannett also operates a duopoly in Denver and is pursuing one St. Louis.
In addition, Local TV already operates two stations in the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va. market, where Tribune owns the Daily Press newspaper — a combination that would violate FCC ownership limits.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“This deal adds to a blizzard of broadcast industry consolidation that is poised to leave America’s media system less local, less diverse and less accountable to the people in these communities. By the time all these deals are done, a handful of companies could control almost all of the network affiliates in major markets and swing states.
“The FCC needs to wake up to what’s happening on local TV — which is still the No. 1 source for news in America. Wall Street may be overjoyed at this merger mania, but the rest of us should be very worried about having fewer viewpoints on the air and fewer reporters on the beat.“