FCC Okays Media General/LIN Merger

Includes divestitures and waivers to comport with local ownership rules

The FCC's Media Bureau has approved the Media General/LIN Media meld and a complicated series of associated transactions that are seeing stations go to Hearst, Meredith and Sinclair to comport with FCC local ownership rules.

The Federal Trade Commission announced last month that the Justice Department had no antitrust issues with the deal and its divestitures.

Back in March, Media General and LIN announced their proposed $1.6 billion merger. Media General and LIN agreed to divest five stations between them to comply with the local ownership rules. The FCC said Friday (Dec. 12) it expected that to happen immediately following consummation of the Media General/LIN merger.

The FCC granted Media General, which will be the surviving company, four satellite exemptions to the rules as well as two failing-stations waivers, and a third to Sinclair.

LIN has 39 full-power TV stations and Media General 32 full-powers (as well as 22 Class A stations and over 100 low-powers). The post-merger Media General will have 68 full-powers plus the Class As and LPTVs.

The FCC said one of the public interest benefits of the deal was that the spin-offs would not create any new duopolies, suggesting duopoly avoidance is an FCC goal.

After the deal, the FCC pointed out, Media General will have three joint sales agreements that are now attributable as ownership interests and now violate local ownership rules in Youngstown and Dayton, Ohio, and Topeka, Kansas, but those JSAs have a couple years to unwind, so Media General will get a waiver and get to unwind them on that timetable. "[T]he Commission has previously found that temporary waiver of its ownership rules is appropriate so long as such waiver does not undermine the underlying goals of the Commission’s ownership rules: competition, localism, and diversity," the bureau said. "Based on the specific facts and nature of the transaction before us, we find that temporary waiver does not undermine any of these goals..."