DOJ agreement should clear way for Gannett-Belo deal, companies say

Gannett | Department of Justice | The New York Times

Gannett Co. and Belo Corp. announced Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that should clear the way for Gannett to purchase Belo as announced in June.

The $1.5 billion sale and assumption of $715 million in Belo debt would expand Gannett’s TV holdings from 23 to 43 stations, the media companies said last summer.

The proposed agreement emerged at the same time as the filing of a civil antitrust lawsuit Monday in the District of Columbia’s U.S. District Court to block Gannett’s acquisition of Belo. The agreement — which would resolve the concerns alleged in the lawsuit — would require Gannett and third-party operator Sander Media LLC to divest themselves of Belo-owned KMOV-TV. Gannett already owns KSDK-TV in the St. Louis market.

“Gannett’s KSDK‑TV and Belo’s KMOV‑TV compete head-to-head in the sale of broadcast television spot advertising in the St. Louis area, and this rivalry constrains advertising rates,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general and head of the department’s antitrust division, in a release.  “The full divestiture required by the department will ensure that KMOV-TV will remain a vigorous competitor in St. Louis.”

Sander will also acquire “six Belo stations that Gannett cannot hold under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules,” the department said in its release.

A federal court must approve the settlement. In addition, the “Belo transaction remains subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission and other customary closing conditions,” Gannett said in its release.

The Belo acquisition is one of the largest in decades, The New York Times reported, and is meant to speed along Gannett’s move away from print to other platforms. Gannett owns 82 daily newspapers, including USA Today.

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