FCC Approves Media General-Young Merger

UPDATED: 4:35 p.m. ET

The FCC has approved of the planned Media General-Young Broadcasting merger. Media General expects to close on the transaction November 12. Media General shareholders approved the merger, announced in June, Nov. 7.

George L. Mahoney, president and chief executive of Media General, called it "the last step in the approval process."

"I spent much of the third quarter visiting the Young television stations," he added. "What I found further confirms that both Young and Media General approach their markets in the same ways. That shared broadcast vision will further animate and strengthen the smooth integration that we expect. And that, in turn, means we'll be in a position to capitalize even more quickly on our new, combined strength."

The FCC denied Informal Objections filed by Spartan-TV and Dish Network.

"We conclude that the applicants are fully qualified and that grant of the transfer of control of Young and Media General from its current shareholders to Post-Merger Media General will serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity," the FCC's Media Bureau said Friday in granting the deal, which was not reviewed on the commissioner level.

Dish had filed an Informal Objection to the deal, saying that Media General and Young's past behavior have demonstrated a "propensity to engage in further anticompetitive behavior that is relevant to the Commission's public interest evaluation."

While the FCC's Media Bureau said Dish did not clearly state the harm it was raising, the bureau said it was interpreting it as a warning that the deal could raise retrans fees. "Such a claim is speculative and is improper in the context of this adjudicatory proceeding," said the commission.

Dish separately has filed an "improper coordination" retarns complaint against the companies, saying coordinated conduct "constitutes a breach of a broadcaster's duty to negotiate in good faith." The bureau said that was the context to raise the retrans issue.

Spartan filed an Informal Objection to the sale of WLNS-TV, Lansing, Mich., alleging WLNS-TV and WLAJ(TV), also Lansing violated, the FCC's rules governing shared service agreements and joint advertising agreements. The bureau concluded that Spartan had not made its case and there was no evidence that the brokering station (Young's WLNS) had improperly dicated financial decisions or that WLAJ did not retain the economic incentive to control its own programming.  

The FCC's approval included extending a failing station waiver for WYCW(TV) Asheville, N.C. Young currently has five licenses that have been renewed due to indecency complaints, but the FCC said none involved character qualification issues that would stand in the way of the deal.--John Eggerton contributed to this story.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.