The U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division today said it will require Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. to sell WHTM-TV (ABC27) in order to proceed with its proposed $963 million acquisition of Allbritton Communications.
Last month, Maryland-based Sinclair announced it had agreed to sell the Harrisburg station as part of a two-station deal worth $97.4 million. Media General said it was paying $83.4 million for abc27.
The local ABC affiliate is the No. 2-ranked television station in the local media market, according to Media General.
Without the divestiture, the DOJ said, prices for broadcast television spot advertising would likely increase in parts of Central Pennsylvania. Sinclair would have owned or controlled three of the six broadcast television stations selling advertising in the area.
“Perpetual’s WHTM-TV competes directly with WHP-TV and WLYH-TV, two stations owned or operated by Sinclair, in the sale of broadcast television spot advertising in parts of central Pennsylvania,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division. “The rivalry between the stations has helped to constrain advertising rates, and without the divestiture, advertisers on stations in this area would likely have paid higher prices.”
Perpetual Corp. is Allbritton’s parent company.
Sinclair is planning to retain WHP-TV (CBS21) and WLYH-TV, the CW affiliate for the area. It is selling the non-license assets of WTAT-TV, a Fox affiliate in Charleston, S.C., to Cunningham Communications, but picking up WCIV-TV, the ABC affiliate.
Sinclair has said it anticipates it will be able to close on the Allbritton transaction in the third quarter.