Local News
8:09 am
Thu June 13, 2013

The Courier-Journal's Owner is Buying WHAS-11's. What Might That Mean in Louisville?

Credit Joseph Lord/WFPL

The Gannett Co. agreed on Thursday to purchase Belo Corp. for $1.5 billion—which is sure to affect the Louisville media landscape. 

Gannett owns The Courier-Journal. Belo owns WHAS-11.

It's a wild twist, because the Bingham family used to own both news outlets. 

It's also a complicated matter. For more than 30 years, the Federal Communications Commission forebode companies from owning two media outlets in the same local market. The FCC relaxed those rules in 2007—now, the FCC reviews each possible "cross-ownership" situation to decide if "it would promote competition, localism and diversity."

Gannett will "restructure ownership of Belo stations in five markets," the company's chief executive Gracia Martore told investors on Thursday. "Now, after very careful review we are confident we will be able to own or service all of the stations."

Credit Joseph Lord/WFPL

She added later: "In the five markets where both Belo and Gannett have existing operations—that's Phoenix, St. Louis, Portland/Salem, Louisville and Tucson—we expect to work with the new station owners with a combination of joint sales and shared service arrangements. We expect to consolidate all of the results from these stations into our overall financial results."

"Basically, in those five markets we will put in place variations of SSAs and depending on the market we will be able to do more or less shared services."

That's not explained, exactly. I've reached out to Gannett,  C-J Publisher Wesley Jackson (a former Belo executive, by the way) and WHAS General Manager Linda Danna. Danna is out of town, I'm told. I'll update if I hear from any of the rest.

Update: 5 p.m.: Here's an answer on how Gannett's purchase of Belo will affect The C-J and WHAS, from a Gannett executive sent through a spokesman.

"The Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV have not had any discussions regarding the announced transaction or converged media operations. We expect that WHAS-TV and the Courier-Journal will remain independent entities in the market."

The Gannett-Belo combo playing out on a micro level in Louisville makes a bit of sense. There have been instances in the U.S. of newspapers and television newsrooms operating together. But "converged newsrooms" were a part of the future of media speculation circa 2000, but the talk  faded over the years.

The C-J and WHAS share the same block in downtown Louisville. The properties abut.

But that's getting way ahead of ourselves.

(And a disclosure: I worked at The C-J for several years.)

The merger makes Gannett a much bigger player in national media. Here's from the news release that dropped this morning:

The combination creates a broadcast “Super Group,” catapulting Gannett into the nation’s fourth-largest owner of major network affiliates reaching nearly a third of all U.S. households. The acquisition nearly doubles Gannett’s current broadcast portfolio from 23 to 43 stations, including stations to be serviced by Gannett through shared services or similar sharing arrangements. Upon completion of the transaction, Gannett’s Broadcast segment will have greater geographic and revenue diversity, with 21 stations in the top 25 markets and will become the #1 CBS affiliate group, the #4 ABC affiliate group, and will expand its already #1 NBC affiliate group position. Following the transaction, Gannett’s Broadcast segment is expected to contribute more than half of the Company’s pro forma total EBITDA, and the Digital and Broadcast segments combined are expected to contribute nearly two-thirds.

Gannett's purchase of Belo requires anti-trust approval, FCC approval and such.

Both Gannett and Belo's stocks rose Thursday morning after the purchase was announced.