A 13.7B transaction sending 35 television stations and associated low power properties to Newport Television has been given a conditional go-ahead from the FCC. Newport will be required to bring itself into compliance with local ownership caps, due largely to the presence of backer Providence Equity Partners. PEP has interests in Univision and, by extension, Entravision, as well as Freedom Communications. It will need to make moves in nine of the markets in the immediate transaction. The application for sale was unopposed.
The deal was opposed by Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps, however, who sees it not as a divestiture from one large broadcaster to a smaller one, but rather as a lateral move from large company to another. He said PEP will wind up with interests in 86 television stations and 99 radio stations once this deal is closed.
TVBR/RBR observation: How much control does an equity backer exert on localism in broadcast programming? We’d guess not much, other than to support it because generally it’s a good business practice. But with cash in short supply, we’d have to think twice about the ultimate affect on public interest that would follow chasing money out of the business. It Newport/PEP competitors aren’t motivated to protest this transaction, we can’t muster much enthusiasm to protest it either. Assuming the deal does go to closure, it should in fact offer some opportunity for small and/or minority/female-owned businesses to score a station. But beware, Mr. Copps. They too may need a company similar to PEP to help them do it.