As Auction for Struggling WLNE Nears, ABC Threatens to Pull Affiliation

By Andrew Gauthier 

Struggling Providence station WLNE may have become less attractive to potential buyers as it heads into auction on March 22nd. ABC has informed bidders that the station may lose its affiliation at the end of the month.

ABC’s affiliation agreement with WLNE, which is branded ABC6 and uses the domain, expires at the end of March and there is no guarantee that the station’s new owner will be able to continue operating it as an affiliate.

“ABC has the right to approve, in its sole discretion, any operator of the station,” ABC’s attorney wrote in a March 4 court filing obtained by WPRI. “The consent of ABC is required before anyone may operate the station as an ABC affiliate after March 31.”

In a different filing this week, WLNE’s current owner asked the judge to block the sale, arguing that the station was worth double the $4 million that the auction’s stalking-horse bidder, Citadel Communications, has offered.

Court documents, reviewed by WPRI’s Ted Nesi, reveal that WLNE’s current owner, Kevin O’Brien, told the court that ABC’s threat to pull the station’s affiliation “has effectively chilled the sale process of the station” and “is directly negatively influencing the sales price.”

The auction is expected to include six bidders, although only two–Citadel Communications and former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino–have publicly expressed their desire to buy the station.

In the meantime, expect to see a few more bra infomercials airing in place of WLNE’s 7 p.m. newscast.