Gannett Co. announced Thursday it will buy Belo Corp for about $1.5 billion and assume $715 million of Belo’s existing debt. “The acquisition nearly doubles Gannett’s current broadcast portfolio from 23 to 43 stations,” the companies say in a press release.
Belo spun off its newspapers as a separate company called A.H. Belo in 2007. This acquisition comes not long after Media General announced plans to merge with the New Young Broadcasting Company. The combined company will own 30 stations.
“The idea of great stations like KARE-11, KING, WFAA, KHOU, KUSA and other Belo and Gannett properties all being in the same family has the great potential to serve communities with quality work,” Al Tompkins, Poynter’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online, said in an email.
BELO stations like KING, WFAA and KHOU have long traditions of investigative work that matters. Gannett stations like KARE and KUSA are national leaders in photojournalism. These are some really high quality properties that have the potential to find ways to work together. The danger in “bigger” can be when a large company instills a corporate mentality that strips local stations of their uniqueness. Many of stations involved in this merger are significant forces in their communities. Great stations know the key to success is to be local. Every community deserves to have a station that loves that community the most. This merger is good news if the power of BIG can be used to stabilize stations during economic uncertainty, to fund risks worth taking and to finance expensive investigative and public service work. The merger is bad news if it centralizes decision-making, strips stations of quality people who know their markets and only pumps money to the profit line. These are not stupid companies. I am hopeful.