Allbritton Communications

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"Allbritton" redirects here. For the surname, see Allbritton (surname).
Allbritton Communications Company
Industry Media
Fate Acquired by Sinclair
Successors Sinclair Broadcast Group
Founded Arlington, Virginia (1975 (1975))
Founders Joe L. Allbritton
Defunct August 1, 2014
Headquarters Arlington, Virginia, United States
Key people Robert L. Allbritton (CEO)
Services Broadcasting, publishing

The Allbritton Communications Company was an American media company. Based in Arlington, Virginia, Allbritton was the leading subsidiary of Perpetual Corporation, a private holding company owned by the family of company founder and former Riggs Bank president Joe L. Allbritton.[1] Joe’s son, Robert L. Allbritton, was the Chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications from 2001 to 2014.[2] He is currently the owner of Capitol News Company, the parent company of political newspaper and website Politico.[3]

Allbritton was previously a major owner of broadcast television stations; it owned a chain of eight television stations affiliated with ABC, anchored by its Washington, DC flagship WJLA-TV, and NewsChannel 8, a regional cable television network serving the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In May 2013, the company put all of its stations for sale, citing a desire to focus exclusively on Politico; they were ultimately sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.[4] The sale was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014, following a year-long delay to address improper duopolies in certain markets that would result from the purchase.[5]

History[edit]

The company was formed in 1975 when Joe Allbritton bought the media interests of The Washington Star, including its television and radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission required him to sell off either the television or radio properties as a condition of the purchase, and Allbritton opted to sell the radio stations.

Acquisition of television stations by Sinclair[edit]

In May 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations; the move came as a result of their declining revenue, and the increasing success of Politico, which "continues to carry no debt, funds all investment with operating income and will still turn a profit, again, in 2013."[6][7] On July 29, 2013, the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire all of Allbritton's stations for $985 million.[8][9][10] In particular, Sinclair eyed the potential use of WJLA's NewsChannel 8 as a base to launch a national cable news channel.[11][12]

The planned acquisition was hit with a number of pitfalls due to conflicts between already Sinclair-owned or controlled stations in Allbritton's markets, and the FCC's recent actions involving local marketing agreements (LMAs) and joint sales agreements. Sinclair would have sold its existing stations in several Allbritton markets—WABM and WTTO in Birmingham, Alabama and WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Deerfield Media, and WMMP in Charleston, South Carolina to Howard Stirk Holdings, a company owned by conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams. The stations would have remained operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement. In December 2013, FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman sent a letter demanding information from Sinclair Broadcast Group on the financial aspects of its "sidecar" operations, and warned that in these three markets, "the proposed transactions would result in the elimination of the grandfathered status of certain local marketing agreements and thus cause the transactions to violate our local TV ownership rules." It was asserted that the deal might only be legal if the affected stations were operated under shared services agreements.[13][14]

Sinclair restructured the deal in March 2014, choosing to sell its existing stations in Harrisburg (WHP-TV), Charleston (WMMP) and Birmingham (WABM) and terminate an SSA with the Cunningham-owned Fox affiliate in Charleston to acquire Allbritton's WCIV, WHTM-TV, and WBMA-LD, while also creating a new duopoly between the ABC and CW affiliates in Birmingham), as well as foregoing any operational or financial agreements with the buyers of the stations being sold to other parties.[15][16] However, in May 2014, Sinclair disclosed in an FCC filling that it was unable to find buyers for the three affected stations, requiring changes to its transaction.[17] In Harrisburg, Sinclair chose to retain WHP-TV, and instead sell WHTM to Media General.[18] However, in Charleston and Birmingham, the company proposed to shut down stations entirely so it could maintain legal duopolies; surrendering the licenses for WCIV and the full-powered repeaters of WBMA-LD (WJSU and WCFT), and moving their ABC programming to Sinclair's existing stations WMMP and WABM respectively—which would shift their existing MyNetworkTV programming to digital subchannels.[19] After nearly a year of delays, Sinclair's deal to acquire Allbritton was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014.[5] Sinclair completed the sale on August 1.[20]

Newspapers[edit]

Allbritton launched Politico, a political news website and newspaper on January 23, 2007, the day of the 2007 State of the Union Address.

Allbritton launched Washington-area local news web site TBD in 2010. The site merged the web pages of the company's television stations, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and its cable sibling, NewsChannel 8. Jim Brady, a former Washington Post editor, ran the site.[21][22] Allbritton shut down TBD in 2012.

Allbritton owned the Washington Evening Star (1975–1978).

Former Allbritton-owned Television stations[edit]

Note:

  • (**) - Indicates a station that was built and signed-on by The Washington Star Company (predecessor of Allbritton Communications).
City of license / Market Station Channel
TV (RF)
Years owned Current Ownership Status
Birmingham, Alabama WBMA-LD 58 (40) 1994-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Anniston, Alabama WJSU-TV
(satellite of WBMA)
40 (9) 1996-2014 Silent
(Sale to Howard Stirk Holdings pending)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama WCFT-TV
(satellite of WBMA)
33 (33) 1996-2014 Silent
(Sale to Howard Stirk Holdings pending)
Little Rock, Arkansas KATV 7 (22) 1982-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Washington, DC WJLA-TV ** 7 (7) 1975-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Jacksonville, Florida WJXX 25 (10) 1997-2000 ABC affiliate owned by Gannett Company
Brunswick, Georgia WBSG 21 (24) 1997-2001 Ion Television (O&O), WPXC-TV, owned by Ion Media Networks
Tulsa, Oklahoma KTUL-TV 8 (10) 1982-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania WHTM-TV 27 (10) 1996-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Media General
Charleston, South Carolina WCIV** 4 (34) 1975-2014 ZUUS Country affiliate, WMMP, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
(Sale pending to Howard Stirk Holdings)
Lynchburg - Roanoke, Virginia WSET-TV 13 (13) 1975-2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ O'Brien, Timothy L. (2004-05-09). "Corporate Art Lovers Who Hate That Big Tax Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Company Overview of Allbritton Communications Company". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 11/6/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ FCC approves $1B Allbritton TV sale to Sinclair, Politico, 24 July 2014, Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Sinclair Buying Allbritton Stations For $985M". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Eggerton, John (24 July 2014). "FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Wemple, Erik. "Allbritton exploring sale of TV assets". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Farhi, Paul; Heath, Thomas (2013-05-02). "Allbritton to sell its TV holdings, including WJLA and NewsChannel 8". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (2013-07-29). "Allbritton selling eight TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  9. ^ Calderone, Michael (2013-05-01). "Politico Owner Considers Sale Of TV Stations". Huffington Post. 
  10. ^ Stelter, Brian; Kaufman, Leslie (2013-07-29). "Sinclair Group Is Buying 7 Allbritton TV Stations". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  11. ^ Eggerton, John (July 29, 2013). "Sinclair Buying NewsChannel 8 in D.C.". Multichannel News. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ Malone, Michael (July 30, 2013). "Sinclair Plans National Rollout for Allbritton Cable Channel". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ Hagey, Keach (December 6, 2013). "FCC Asks Sinclair to Revise Plans to Use 'Sidecar' Companies". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company). Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  14. ^ Halonen, Doug (December 6, 2013). "FCC Targets Sinclair Sidecar Deals In 3 Mkts.". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  15. ^ Eck, Kevin (March 21, 2014). "Sinclair Offers to Sell Stations Ahead of FCC Decision". TVSpy. Mediabistro. Retrieved July 26, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Sinclair Proposes Restructuring of Allbritton Transaction in Order To Meet Objections of the Federal Communications Commission". PR Newswire (Press release). Baltimore. March 20, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014 – via The Wall Street Journal. 
  17. ^ Jessell, Harry A. (May 29, 2014). "Sinclair Giving Up 3 Stations To Appease FCC". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Media General Buying WHTM For $83.4M". TVNewsCheck (NewsCheckMedia). June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  19. ^ Eggerton, John (May 29, 2014). "Sinclair Proposes Surrendering Three Licenses to Get Allbritton Deal Done". Broadcasting & Cable (NewBay Media). Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  20. ^ Sinclair's Deal For Allbritton Closes, Broadcasting & Cable, 1 August 2014, Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  21. ^ http://tbd.com/
  22. ^ Kurtz, Howard (2009-10-29). "Allbritton Communications will debut this spring a new web site on local news in D.C". The Washington Post.