The Federal Communications Commission today approved two major broadcast deals, allowing Capital Cities Communications Inc. to buy the ABC television network and publisher Rupert Murdoch to acquire a chain of independent TV stations.
The commission approved the first transfer of ownership of a television network in giving the green light to the $3.5-billion ABC-Capital Cities merger.
Australian-born media magnate Murdoch was permitted to buy the chain of television stations from Metromedia Inc. for more than $2 billion. Murdoch recently became an American citizen so he could acquire the properties. Federal law requires that owners of broadcasting outlets must be U.S. citizens.
Stations in the Metromedia deal are in Washington, New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. One Boston Metromedia station will be bought and spun off to Hearst Corp. for $450 million.
The FCC, in approving the massive deals, also granted temporary waivers to the purchasers from rules on multiple ownership of broadcasting outlets. The rules prohibit the ownership of more than one radio station, one television station or newspaper in the same market.
The agency waived the rule for Capital Cities, allowing it to retain the ABC television stations in New York, WABC, and Philadelphia, WPVI, even though the stations' signals overlap.
The Washington Post reported today that Congress would not object to a permanent waiver for Capital Cities concerning those stations because the purchaser has promised to devote studio resources and coverage to southern New Jersey.
Murdoch also got a waiver of two years to sell off the New York Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, which conflict with ownership of other media in those markets.
Murdoch's deal has been challenged by several groups on financial and public interest grounds.