Time Warner is selling WPCH – its Atlanta broadcast television station – to Meredith Corp. broadcast group for 70 million dollars in a potential proposal to avoid FCC scrutiny of its impending merger with AT&T, according to an FCC filing.
Meredith is the group that has already been operating WPCH for Time Warner. Thus, it wouldn’t be a great change. Reports indicate that Meredith has been operating WPCH via a contract with Turner since the year 2011.
Meredith and WPCH have a JSA for over 15-percent of ad time. Thus, it already possesses great interest in this station.
The decision of Time Warner to sell WPCH could enhance the chances of AT&T to skip a difficult FCC public-interest review of this acquisition. Last year October, when the acquisition was announced, several people speculated that the contract could stay away from an FCC review as far as Time Warner stripped its FCC broadcast permit possessed by Turner in Atlanta.
According to a statement by AT&T, it would not have filed its contract to buy Time Warner with the FCC because if the permit shifted to AT&T the FCC would need to assess it on the grounds of public interest.
In January’s SEC filing, AT&T told that Time Warner would not need to transfer its FCC licenses after the completion of the takeover. Permits covering the businesses of Time Warner, including CNN and HBO, cannot be shifted to AT&T without the consent of FCC. AT&T, by indicating, that no permit transfer is required, it signalled that the firms can bypass the public interest review of FCC completely. That would imply the firms require only the approval of the Justice Department to clear the regulatory reviews.
Time Warner also possesses some other FCC permits for internal associations between studios and CNN field trucks, though AT&T has clearly indicated that those wouldn’t be a part of this contract either.
Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner and Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T sent a letter to a team of Democratic senators this week, reiterating that the two forms expected not needing the approval of FCC for their union.
The companies wrote – “Although our plans our subject to change, we currently anticipate that Time Warner will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses to AT&T to maintain its business operations. Almost all of Time Warner’s existing licenses are used only for internal communications anyway; they do not provide FCC-regulated services to the public.”
Ajit Pai, the chairman of FCC did not comment whether the FCC would make use of this WPCH sale to get to the Time Warner – AT&T merger, though that seems improbable from the deregulatory Republican.