FCC Challenging Part of Sinclair’s Allbritton Buy

By Kevin Eck 

The FCC is telling Sinclair Broadcast Group that part of its $985 million purchase of Allbritton Communications will violate ownership rules.

TVNewsCheck reported Friday, FCC Video Division chief Barbara Kreisman told Sinclair the way it has structured its deal to buy Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Charleston, SC, Birmingham, AL, and Harrisburg, PA, would not afford it the grandfathered protection the station group had previously enjoyed, which allowed it to operate multiple stations in a single market.

Earlier, The American Cable Association wrote “Sinclair, fully aware that the FCC’s rules would not permit its outright ownership of these Charleston and Harrisburg stations, is also proposing to assign its own stations in these markets to third parties – so-called sidecar companies – while continuing to provide many “support services” to the stations through a variety of sharing agreements. “

Sinclair’s purchase of Allbritton would add ABC affiliates WHTM in Harrisburg and WCIV in Charleston and WBMA in Birmingham to its existing stations including the CBS affiliate WHP in Harrisburg and FOX affiliate WTAT in Charleston, SC, which is owned by Sinclair sidecar company Cunningham Broadcasting.

According to TVNewsCheck, “A Sinclair source said the company intended to respond to Kreisman’s concerns ‘and we anticipate being able to work out all of the issues raised by the FCC,” and added that “it’s not uncommon for the FCC to seek further information about transaction details.'”