Gannett/Belo By Friday

Sources, magic eight ball say deal will be done

I was at the taping of TNT's Christmas in Washington TV special last week, and one of the roving entertainers offered this joke to some audience members as they waited to sing carols with the President and munch on star-shaped sugar cookies: "My mother wanted me to be a fortune teller, but I didn't see any future in it."

I laughed, but then, I like airline food.

I didn't know how quickly I would want to invoke that joke on myself, which I do now. In this case as a caveat.

I am not Kreskin, so I could be wrong. But my prediction was that the FCC is going to approve the Gannett/Belo deal on/by Friday (and at the latest by the end of the year), conditioned on approval of the DOJ settlement requiring them to spin off KMOV to someone other than Jack Sander and company.

I had only one source, not at the FCC, who suggested that was the buzz, but others said it made sense. And I wasn't joking in the deck about asking my magic eight ball. I went to and the reply, after a "Concentrate and ask again" and an "answer hazy," was "outlook good." I asked again—journalists need to double check their sources—and the answer this time was a definitive "Yes." So, there you have it. Well actually, there you have it was when I did get an FCC source to confirm.

This is just informed speculation. since the FCC brass have not confirmed. But usually the FCC and DOJ coordinate their reviews, so I would be surprised if the FCC didn't approve it. And "by Friday" is a guess that they will want to get it done before the end of the year now that DOJ has dropped the first shoe.

The conditioned approval is because although Belo agreed to the settlement, a court still has to approve the DOJ deal.

The the drill is for Justice to file a suit and then seek approval of a settlement of the issues raised, essentially in the same motion.

It has been I don't know how long—and that is not a folksy Andy Griffith turn of phrase, I DON'T know how long—since Justice conditioned a station deal on a spinoff, so this is kind of newish territory. Some were wondering whether the FCC could approve it before a court signed off on the deal. I think they can, just as the FCC can renew a license conditioned on the eventual final dispensation of an indecency complaint.

I guess if the FCC okays the deal it is done since the court approval of a DOJ or FTC settlement is as close to a given as things get around this town, but I don't want to start cleaning cider out of my ear, so I never say "never."