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Raycom Waits Out FCC Backlog

Sales of TV stations have been few and far between this year, even though the FCC relaxed many of its ownership restrictions in June. But Raycom Media last week became the first Top 25 TV-station group to cut a deal in the post-dereg world, agreeing to buy three small-market stations from Waitt Broadcasting for $25.7 million.

The stations: WDFX-TV Dothan, Ala. (DMA 171), WFXL(TV) Albany, Ga. (DMA 148), and WPGX(TV) Panama City, Fla. (DMA 159). All are Fox affiliates.

"These stations are in an area that has long-term strategic value to us," says Rebecca Bryan, Raycom Media vice president and general counsel.

Raycom Media has focused its efforts on the Southeast, particularly Alabama (its headquarters are in Montgomery), Georgia and Florida. Bryan says the new stations give Raycom more of presence along the East Coast. Raycom's TV stations current reach 10.2% of the nation's viewers.

Final decisions, Bryan says, haven't been made yet with respect to how the stations will be run, but she expects no major changes. "This isn't a duopoly type of situation where we would shut down operations or anything like that."

Bryan doesn't expect the deal to run into any problems at the FCC. The only holdup would be related to the commission's application backlog. "We had two low-power station deals. ... One went through quickly while the other took some time as the FCC was dealing with other issues."

Raycom submitted the deal to the FCC on Aug. 26. Once the deal is approved, the three stations will be placed into different Raycom Media subsidiaries. The company, which has stations in 19 states, has three subsidiaries broken up by state.

Executives at Waitt Broadcasting, which also owns radio stations, were unavailable for comment late last week.