FCC Okays Scripps/Journal Merger

The FCC's Media Bureau has approved the license transfers in the Scripps/Journal Communications deal to merge their broadcast station groups and spin off their newspaper holdings into a separate company.

The companies announced in late July that they wanted to create a new broadcast company, E.W. Scripps, remaining in Cincinnati, and newspaper company Journal Media Group, based in Milwaukee.

Journal owns 12 full-power TV stations and 35 radio stations and Scripps owns 16 full-power TV stations.

The Federal Trade Commission in September announced that neither it nor the Justice Department had any antitrust issues with the deal.

The deal requires the divestiture of two Journal stations, a radio and TV, and for the FCC to extend a failing station waiver, which the FCC will do. Journal will have to sell one of its FM stations in Wichita, whose ownership had been grandfathered (the FCC limit in Tulsa is four stations in any one service, AM or FM).

Journal also has to divest one of its Boise-market stations, something of a victim of its own success. Journal has owned KNIN-TV Caldwell, Idaho, since 2009 under a failing station waiver. But that station is now a Fox affiliate and a failing-station no more (it is now one of the top four), so with the merger Journal's waiver goes away and it can't own the station anymore due to duopoly limits (there are fewer than eight stations in the market).

Scripps will spin both stations into a trust if they have not been sold by the deal's close.

In Green Bay-Appleton, Journal also has a failing station waiver to own both WGBA-TV and WACY-TV. It will get to keep both since WACY-TV, a MyNetworkTV affiliate, continues to meet the definition of "failing."

Journal, minus the newspapers, will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Scripps.

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.