DOJ Asks for More Information About Gannett’s Purchase of Belo

Companies still expect to close deal by end of year

The Department of Justice asked Gannett and Belo for more information about Gannett's $1.5 billion purchase of Belo, the companies said Friday.

Announced in June, the merger would double Gannett's TV station portfolio and create the nation's fourth largest owner of "big four" network affiliates.

Gannett played down the DOJ's second request as a "standard part of the DOJ review process" and reiterated that the company expects to close the transaction by the end of the year.

Still, a second request can soak up a lot of time. Gannett said the two companies will "respond promptly." Once both companies have substantially complied with the second request, the DOJ has 30 days to make its final decision.

In addition to the DOJ's antitrust clearance, the deal must also be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and Belo's shareholders.

The FCC has received a number of petitions either opposing the deal or requesting the agency impose conditions on the merger over Gannett's intent to get around ownership rules by operating some stations via shared service agreements. Companies like Time Warner Cable and DirecTV have filed petitions because they are concerned that the deal will drive up retransmission fees and lead to more blackouts. 

Gannett said everything the company proposed is legal and "consistent with all FCC rules, policies and precedent."