Gannett purchase of Belo Corp. wins Justice approval

7:55 AM, Dec 17, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- Gannett, owner of WTSP 10 News as well as USA TODAY, has agreed to sell a TV station in St. Louis, clearing the way for completion of its $2.2 billion purchase of media company Belo, the Justice Department said Monday.

Gannett already owns KSDK-TV, an NBC affiliate in St. Louis. Texas-based Belo owns 20 TV stations, including KMOV-TV, a CBS affiliate in St. Louis. KMOV-TV was one of six stations Gannett had planned to transfer to Sander Media, an Arizona-based third-party operator designed to acquire stations in markets where Belo and Gannett markets overlap.

Gannett agreed to sell KMOV-TV to a Justice Department-approved buyer.

"Gannett's KSDK-TV and Belo's KMOV-TV compete head-to-head in the sale of broadcast television spot advertising in the St. Louis area, and this rivalry constrains advertising rates," Bill Baer, who heads the department's antitrust division, said in a statement. Divestiture "will ensure that KMOV-TV will remain a vigorous competitor in St. Louis."

Divestiture of KMOV-TV is expected to take place in 2014, Gannett said. The agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department Antitrust Division. The sale remains subject to Federal Communications Commission approval, but Gannett said the settlement should allow completion of the deal by month's end.

Gannett, based in McLean, Va., owns 23 TV stations and 82 newspapers, including USA TODAY. The Belo acquisition will extend Gannett's television reach to nearly a third of U.S. households.

Gannett stock rose almost 2% Monday, closing at $26.66.

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