DOJ Seeks More Info on Gannett/Belo Deal

The Justice Department has asked for more
information from Belo and Gannett about their planned TV station merger, the
companies said in a joint statement.

The second request
means that the deal did not get early termination of its Hart-Scott-Rodino
antitrust review from Justice, which usually handles the TV station transfer
reviews--antitrust reviews are divided up between Justice and the Federal Trade

That second request
is in contrast to DOJ's early termination of its antitrust review of Sinclair's
purchase of Fisher TV stations in May and its OK to the Tribune/Local TV deal
in July. Early termination means DOJ has no antitrust issues that would prompt
it to impose conditions or sue to block the deal outright.

"Gannett and
Belo will respond promptly to the Second Request and continue working
cooperatively with the DOJ as it conducts its review of the proposed
transaction," they said, adding that they still expect the deal to close
by the end of 2013.

The FCC has to
approve the deal as well. It opened a public docket (No. 13-189) on Gannett's
proposed $2.2 billion purchase of Belo Corp. TV stations to solicit public
comment after separate petitions to deny portions of the deal were filed bysome cable and satellite operators
and public advocacy groups.

Mergers above a
certain monetary threshold have to submit the deals to antitrust review, which
triggers a 30-day waiting period before the deals can proceed. Justice or the
FTC can either terminate that review early, or as in this case, make a
"second request" for information on the deal if they determine that
"further inquiry is necessary."

Gannett and Belo
characterized it in a release called a second request a "standard
part" of the review process. While it is standard in the sense that it is part of the formal review if early
termination is not granted, according to a source at the FTC, only 3% of deals
require that second request.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.