Georgia State Supreme Court to Decide Fate of WAGT

By Kevin Eck 

The saga of what will become of Augusta, Ga., NBC affiliate WAGT is heading to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Gray TV, the company that bought the station in February, is asking the the court to strike down an injunction saying it can’t operate its new station or sell off its bandwidth in next week’s spectrum auction.

Media General got the injunction after claiming it still has a long-term contract to operate the station with former owner Schurz Communications.

The Augusta Chronicle reports that while WAGT makes up less than $1 million in Media General’s annual revenue, its signal could bring in up to $210 million in the spectrum auction.

Gray Television’s acquisition of Indiana-based Schurz’s stations was announced in September and closed Feb. 16, at which time Gray’s CBS-affiliated WRDW began simulcasting its local newscasts in place of WAGT’s news, whose on-air employees are under Media General contacts. WAGT operations reverted to status quo when the injunction was issued.

Media General’s attempt to force the contract on the new owners has apparently run afoul of federal regulators who had ordered the agreement be terminated after the sale. Though the dispute was briefly in federal court – U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall remanded the case back to state courts March 10 – an FCC attorney filed a statement saying Media General’s actions constituted federal communications law violation under the part that allows the government to revoke a company’s broadcast license.

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