DOJ Questions Injunction Allowing Media General to Operate WAGT

By Kevin Eck 

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest with the U.S. District Court of Southern Georgia saying the injunction granted to Media General “conflicts with the FCC’s action” of assigning the license for Augusta, Ga. NBC affiliate WAGT to Gray TV.

The Federal Communications Commission asked the DOJ to investigate the injunction granted to Media General last week, allowing it to take operation of Augusta, Ga. NBC affiliate WAGT back from its new owner Gray TV after Gray had begun broadcasting on the channel.

Gray’s WRDW started simulcasting a newscast on WAGT produced by the CBS affiliate on the day the purchase of Schurz Communications was final.

Last week, Media General, which operated the Schurz station, sued saying it had a contract to continue doing so until 2020. A judge granted the station group an injunction, allowing the news team from the former Media General station to begin producing and airing local news broadcasts on WAGT again.

“Termination of the JSA was an express condition of the Commission’s approval of the Schurz/Gray transaction,” reads the FCC’s letter to the DOJ. “The Commission has ordered that the JSA not continue once Gray consummated its acquisition of WAGT. Whatever contractual liability Schurz, Gray, or both of them may have for the actions that brought about the sale of WAGT and termination of the JSA, it contravenes the Commission’s merger order to continue the JSA once Gray owns the station. By seeking an injunction to require continued implementation of the JSA, Media General has sought a remedy in conflict with the Commission’s order. Dissolution of that provision of the injunction is necessary to allow WAGT to be operated consistent with the Commission’s mandate.”

TVNewscheck reports the FCC Deputy General Counsel David Gossett has “initiated an investigation and plans to issue a Letter of Inquiry within the near future in order to determine … whether a hearing would be appropriate under Section 312 of the Communications Act.”

Section 312 is the one dealing with revoking a broadcaster’s license.

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