Gannett Promises to Keep Same Market Stations Separate in Belo Acquisition

By Kevin Eck 

Gannett Broadcasting president David Lougee gave TVSpy a look at what it plans to do with some of the Belo stations it will own as soon as the inks dries on its deal to buy the station group.

TVSpy asked Lougee what Gannett meant when it told employees in a memo, “As part of the deal, we are restructuring ownership of the Belo stations in 5 markets, Phoenix, St. Louis, Portland, Louisville and Tucson. We expect that the stations affected will be serviced by Gannett through shared service agreements or similar sharing arrangements.”

Focusing mainly on the plans for Belo’s St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV and Phoenix independent station KTVK, since Gannett already owns stations in those markets (St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK and Phoenix NBC affiliate KPNX) Lougee told TVSpy, “I’m never going in those buildings. They are going to completely compete against our television stations. There is no consolidation taking place in St. Louis and Phoenix.

He told TVSpy Jack Sander would head a third-party company that would be the owner, licensee and the operator of those two stations. Sander is a senior adviser to Belo Corp. Lougee worked at Belo before taking his current role at Gannett.

“In those two markets where Belo owns a television station and we own a television station they will continue to compete head-to-head so there will be no reduction in editorial voices. They will be completely independent,” Lougee added. “It’s kind of like when one company owned Gap and Old Navy. They both competed against each other.”

In the five markets addressed in the Gannett memo besides KMOV and KTVK, Gannett will soon own Louisville ABC affiliate WHAS, Portland, OR, NBC affiliate KGW and Tucson, AZ, FOX and MyNetworkTV affiliates KMSB-KTTU. In those markets, the deal falls under the FCC’s cross-ownership rule since Gannett owns newspapers in the Louisville, Portland and Tucson markets. Lougee said Gannett would have more of hand in the operation of those stations through some form of shared services agreement.

There’s no spin involved,” said Lougee. “These companies have won more regional Edward R. Murrow awards and more national Edward R. Murrow awards than any other company. This is a company that is committed to local journalism as a good business also.”