Big Media

by Thomas Staudt

Ownership Rules

FCC Proposes Relaxing Media Ownership Rules

Federal Communications Commision

The Federal Communications Commission Has Proposed Changing Media-Ownership Rules [19]

The biggest news in Fall 2012 regarding the topic of Big Media is a proposal by the FCC to implement changes in the media ownership rules. The biggest change aims to relax the ban that prevents cross-ownership of a television station and newspaper in the same market. The rule does not apply to top 20 markets, although a waiver could be obtained to allow it to be applied. Regulations against the ownership of duopoly television stations will remain in effect. The proposal comes at a time when the media landscape is shifting, and local news operations are struggling for resources. [1]

Advocates for the proposal suggest that allowing mergers between local television and newspaper outlets will allow the outlets to stay in business in a tougher media economic climate. Without the rule change, the argument is that total media outlets will severely decline do to sustainability issues in the coming decade. [2]

Opponents of the plan claim that relaxing the ownership rules will promote further concentration of ownership, and erode diversity, competition, and localism that are in the public interest. The FCC has agreed to accept further opinions and research on the manner, and will hold off on voting until early 2013. [3]

Tribune Requires Ownership Waiver for Sale

Tribune Company Logo

The Tribune Company is an FCC Waiver Away from Emerging from Bankruptcy [20]

 While the FCC considers officially changing cross-media ownership rules, the FCC announced in November, 2012 that it was close to granting a cross-ownership waiver to the Tribune Company to allow the transfer of ownership to a group composed of Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon, and JP Morgan Chase. The waiver is needed because the group currently owns television assets in Los Angeles and four other markets involved. A permanent waiver is expected Chicago, and temporary 1 year waivers for Los Angels, New York, Miami and Hartford. The waivers will allow the closing of the sale, and the completion of four years of bankruptcy. [4]

Ownership Report

FCC Releases Minority Ownership Report

At the beginning of November, 2012, the FCC released its bi-annual report on the ownership of commercial broadcast stations in theUnited Statesas of the end of 2011. The timing of the report is noteworthy as the FCC is in the midst of examining further deregulation of ownership rules, something critics believe will lower ownership diversity even further.

Of the nation’s 1,348 television stations, whites own 69.4%. That is an increase from 63.4% in 2009 when there were 1,187 stations. Accompanying this, African American ownership fell from 1% to 0.7% and Asian ownership fell from 0.8% to 0.5%. Following national trends, Hispanic ownership rose, but only slightly, from 2.5% to 2.9%. There is also a large gender gap in commercial television ownership. While on the rise, women own only 6.8% of stations in the US as of 2011, up from 5.6% in 2009.

The television ownership statistics are not dramatically different than radio, where whites own 80% of stations, and men own 70%. [5]

Cable Networks

Liberty Media Spins off the Starz Network


Starz Logo

Starz Will be Spun Off into Its Own Company by Liberty Media [21]

Liberty Media announced in August, 2012 that they intend to spin off their premium network Starz into a separate, publicly traded company. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. Liberty shareholders will receive Starz stock as a one-time dividend. The new company will acquire all of the Starz portfolio and assets, as well as $1.5 billion debt, and undisclosed cash. [6] Analysts are skeptical about the financial prospects of the new company, with Starz reporting an 11% decline in income against last year. [7]

Fox Purchases Stake in YES to Assist Clearance

On November 20, 2012, News Corp, the parent company of Fox, agreed to purchase a 49% ownership stake in the YES Network. A specific price was not released, but analysts estimate the deal values the network near $3 billion. News Corp completed the deal with Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity Partners. The contract includes a path for Fox to increase its ownership stake to 80%. YES has a contract to air New York Yankees baseball games through 2042, and is expected to be used as strong leverage to increase retransmission rates and guarantee clearance for other Fox properties in the nation’s largest market and surrounding areas. [8]

Current TV for sale

Current TV Logo

Al Gore’s Current TV is Up for Sale [22]

In October, 2012, Current TV, the networked owned by former Vice President Al Gore, announced that it was up for sale. The struggling network does not have a full time program line-up, and is focused on the far left side of the political spectrum. Austin, Texas startup confirmed December 1, 2012 that it was working to raise funds to purchase the network. Although they do not yet have the funding, a released business plan shows that they would move the network to the political central in order to increase both viewer and advertising bases. claims to be close to having financing in place, but it will remain to be seen if the company can complete the transaction. [9]

 O&O Stations

Fox Sells WUTB in Baltimore to Deerfield Communications

In May 2012, Sinclair paid $25 million to Fox for the affiliation for WBFF in Baltimore, as well as an option to purchase the Fox owned and operated station in Baltimore, WUTB, by March 31, 2013. The station had served as leverage for Fox when negotiating with Sinclair, as Fox used the threat of pulling the Baltimore Fox affiliation from Sinclair’s flagship, WBFF, and switching to their own WUTB. [10]

On November 29, 2012, Sinclair exercised the option to purchase WUTB, paying an additional $2.7 million for the station. Because Sinclair owns WBFF in Baltimore, the sale is between Fox Television corporate, and a third party Deerfield Communications. Sinclair will control the station through an operations contract with Deerfield, and will owe an additional $25 million to Fox, or Fox can exercise an option to acquire certain stations from Sinclair’s current portfolio. [11]

Television Station Groups

Nexstar Buys 5 TV Stations

Nexstar Broadcasting announced that intends to reinvest its windfall from this year’s political season to purchase 5 television stations in California and Vermont. On November 5, 2012, Nexstar announced that it paid Newport Television $35.4 million for the CBS affiliate, KGPE, in Fresno, CA; the NBC and CW affiliate, KGET, in Bakersfield, and a low-powered Telemundo affiliate, KKEY, in Bakersfield, CA.  [12]

In a separate sale, Nexstar Broadcasting announced the completion of a deal November 5, 2012 to purchase Fox affiliate WFFF in Burlington, VT from Smith Media. Nexstar agreed to pay $17.1 million for WFFF and sister station WVNY, an ABC affiliate. The Burlington DMA is important due to its sizeable Canadian audience, including Montreal.  [13] Mission Broadcasting is also involved in the transaction due to media ownership laws. The FCC is expected to approve the transaction in the first quarter of 2013, upon which, Utica, NY NBC affiliate WKTV will be the only television station still owned by Smith Media. [14]

Cox buys 4 Newport Stations

Cox Media Logo

COX Media Purchases 4 Newport Television Stations [23]

Newport Television also closed a deal to sell 4 stations to Cox Media on December 4, 2012. Cox purchased the FOX and CBS duopoly, WAWS and WTEV, in Jacksonville, Florida as well as the FOX and MyNetwork affiliates, KOKI and KMYT, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. [15]

Sinclair buys 7 Newport Stations

On December 3, 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting closed a deal for $459.7 million for seven stations owned by Newport Media. WKRC in Cincinnati, OH; WOAI in San Antonio, TX; WHP in Harrisburg-Lancaster, PA; WPMI and WJTC in Mobile, AL; WHAM in Rochester, NY, and KSAS in Wichita, KS are the stations included in the deal. Sinclair has already announced sweeping personnel changes at many of the stations involved. [16]

Sinclair and Nexstar in running for 24 Barrington stations

Sinclair Television Logo

Sinclair Television is a Finalist for Barrington Television Stations [24]

On November 29, 2012, Barrington Broadcasting, the group run by former AOL Time Warner COO Bob Pittman, announced that it was looking to sell its entire portfolio of 24 television stations. Located in 15 markets ranging from market size 67 to 200, the portfolio consists of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CW stations. Although several companies made bids, Sinclair Broadcasting and Nexstar are the finalists. These two companies have advantages over others due to their nationwide retransmission agreements with a variety of distribution platforms. Upon the completion of a sale, the retransmission rate of the sold station would become that of the new owner, often much higher than that negotiated by the station. [17]

Denali Media Purchases Three Alaska Stations

On November 9, 2012, Denali Media Holdings, Alaska’s largest telecommunications company, announced that it was looking to purchase three additional television stations across the state. As part of a strategy to create a state-wide news and entertainment network, Denali is purchasing the Anchorage CBS affiliate, KTVA, from Media News Group of Denver. It is also purchasing the NBC affiliates in Juneau and Sitka, KATH and KSCT respectively, from North Star Broadcasting. The FCC is expected to approve the sales in early 2013. [18]


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