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Tribune cleared to buy WTXX

The FCC Monday allowed Tribune Television Co. to purchase WTXX(TV) Waterbury, Conn., even though the deal violates restrictions on TV duopolies.

Tribune already owns WTIC-TV in the market and operates WTXX through a local marketing agreement with current owner Counterpoint Communications. FCC rules permit duopolies only when eight separately owned stations remain in a market. Tribune was given the go-ahead because WTXX is considered a financially ailing station and the economic efficiencies created by a duopoly are expected to improve its chances for survival. Also, the company has pledged to add more public affairs programming to WTXX's offerings.

Because Tribune acquired the Hartford Courant after it asked for approval to buy WTXX, the company also was found in violation of the ban on TV/newspaper cross-ownership and given six-months to sell either the newspaper or the TV stations. The deadline was much less generous than the two-year divestiture deadline given News Corp., which two weeks ago acquired a second New York City TV station to go along with the New York Post.

The difference, the FCC said, is that a smaller media market such as Hartford would suffer much greater harm to media diversity. - Bill McConnell