The proposed deal would give the McLean, Va., newspaper and broadcasting company multiple TV stations in several markets, which has become an issue for media watchdogs.
The situation in St. Louis was particularly problematic because Gannett owns KSDK-TV, the
Gannett and Belo had planned to sell six Belo television stations, including KMOV-TV, to a Scottsdale, Ariz., investment group, Sander Media, which was then going to assign management operations of KMOV-TV and five other stations to Gannett. That plan raised eyebrows in the government and among some consumer activists.
The arrangement, at least in St. Louis, did not pass DOJ muster. The department found that Sander Media had "no current business activity other than preparing to acquire six Belo stations."
The Justice Department on Monday announced the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit it has filed to block the merger as long as the companies comply with the department's requirements. A federal judge must approve the settlement.
"The full divestiture required by the department will ensure that KMOV-TV will remain a vigorous competitor in St. Louis," Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the department's Antitrust Division, said in a statement.
The federal action suggests the government intends to scrutinize the wave of consolidation among local TV broadcasters. Consumer activists, who are worried that the mergers will lead to fewer voices in local media, had decried the Gannett arrangement with Sander Media.
“For too long, broadcasters have evaded the
Gannett, which owns 23 TV stations and publishes
The Federal Communications Commission must still approve the deal.