The Department of Justice announced today that it will require Media General Inc. to divest WVTM-TV(NBC), located in the Birmingham, Alabama, Designated Market Area (DMA); WJCL-TV (ABC) and WTGS (FOX), both located in the Savannah, Georgia, DMA; WALA-TV (FOX), located in the Mobile, Alabama/Pensacola, Florida, DMA; WJAR-TV (NBC), located in the Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts, DMA; and WLUK-TV(FOX) and WCWF-TV (CW), both located in the Green Bay/Appleton, Wisconsin, DMA, in order to proceed with its acquisition of LIN Media LLC for $1.5 billion. The department said that without the required divestitures, prices for broadcast television spot advertising would likely increase to advertisers in the DMAs.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns alleged in the lawsuit.
“Media General’s stations and LIN’s stations compete head-to-head in the sale of broadcast television spot advertising in several markets around the country, and this competition benefits advertisers and, ultimately, consumers,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division. “The divestitures required by the department will ensure that these stations remain vigorous competitors in their designated market areas.”
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Media General and LIN must divest assets used in the operation of WVTM-TV and WJCL-TV to Hearst Television Inc.; WALA-TV to Meredith Corporation; and WJAR-TV, WLUK-TV, WCWF-TV, and WTGS to Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., or to other acquirers approved by the United States.
Media General, a Virginia corporation with its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, owns and operates 31 broadcast television stations in 29 metropolitan areas, including broadcast television stations in each of the DMA Markets.
LIN, a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Austin, Texas, owns and operates, or provides programming, operating, or sales services to more than 50 stations in 23 metropolitan areas, including broadcast television stations in each of the DMA Markets.
As required by the Tunney Act, the proposed settlement, along with a competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60‑day comment period to David C. Kully, Chief, Litigation III Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 4000, Washington, DC 20530. At the conclusion of the 60‑day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may approve the proposed settlement upon finding that it is in the public interest.