An Update on the Battle Over WAGT

By Kevin Eck 

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It turns out Augusta, Ga., NBC affiliate WAGT hasn’t gone rogue as TVSpy first reported. The station won an injunction against GrayTV in what the Augusta Chronicle calls “a complex legal battle.”

Barclay Bishop and Jay Jefferies greeted viewers on-air this morning for the first time since Gray took over the station from Media General on Feb. 16.

The Chronicle says a federal judge barred Gray from selling ads on WAGT and programming the station after Media general sued last week, for now. Gray also can’t sell the bandwidth in the upcoming spectrum auction.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall declined Gray’s emergency request to deny the injunction, saying there were questions over whether the matter fell under federal jurisdiction.

While the two sides prepare to argue the case at the hearing, the injunction issued Feb. 26 and filed Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis will be allowed to stand to, as Hall said in court, “simply ensure no party is harmed.” It was not immediately clear what impact the ruling will have on WAGT’s operations in the short term.

For now, it looks like WAGT can continue operating its online NBC branded station.

Media General ran the Schurz-owned station under a joint sales agreement which went until 2020. The Chronicle said the contract states Schurz could only sell the station if “the buyer took over Schurz’s obligations under the long-term contract.”

Last week, WAGT started producing an online version of its newscast on Facebook and also started an website after Gray effectively ended the newscast produced by the former personnel. Gray had been simulcasting a newscast from its CBS affiliate WRDW.