FCC OK's Raycom Liberty Purchase

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The FCC has approved the $987 million purchase of Liberty Corp./Cosmos Broadcasting's 15 TV stations.

The combined company will have four impermissible duopolies: Wilmington, N.C., Columbia, S.C.; Toledo, Ohio and Albany, Ga. But the FCC granted Raycom six-month waivers to operate those stations while it looks for a buyer and the FCC works on a court-ordered rewrite of FCC rules governing who can own how many stations, and where.

Raycom also promised the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department "to operate the stations in the overlap markets as separate entities and maintain competition between them pending divestiture." (Hart Scott Rodino regs require any deal over $250 million be reviewed by Justice.)

In addition, if the company has not sold the stations by the end of the FCC's waiver period, Raycom agrees to a consent decree stipulating that, upon the filing of the decree, Raycom has another 90 days to divest--with an extra 60 days if DOJ wants to be extra nice--after which Justice can appoint a trustee to sell them itself.

Raycom showed the FCC evidence of trying to sell one of those stations in each of the markets where it would have the illegal duopolies. Raycom told the FCC it has hired Wachovia Securities to help it find buyers. It must have worked. 

It says it is close to deals in three markets and has one in the fourth, saying it has gotten 12 bids for WNWO(TV) Toledo; 14 for WACH(TV) Columbia, S.C.; and 11 bids for WFLX(TV) Albany. It already has a deal to sell WWAY Wilmington, Del., to Morris Networks Inc.

Final bids are expected on those three stations by the end of the month, it told the FCC.

"Raycom’s concrete steps to sell the stations, coupled with its agreement with DOJ, make us confident that Raycom will comply with the divestiture deadline," said the FCC.  "Indeed, we are relying on Raycom’s continued aggressive marketing of the stations and its agreement with DOJ in reaching our decision here."

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