Justice Reviews Proposed Gannett, Belo Merger

The proposed $2.2 billion deal merging Gannett and Belo station groups has hit an initial snag in Washington. The Department of Justice has asked both companies for more information as it reviews the proposed combination’s impact on anti-trust matters.

The department is seeking what is known as a second request from both station owners, which means the deal isn’t likely to close until 30 days after it complies with the request. If the DOJ continues to have issues, it could work with the companies toward some sort of consent decree.

The delay may not have been unexpected by Gannett and Belo, considering the size of the deal and its potential impact on the broadcasting business and media at large.

The Federal Communications Commission also needs to approve the deal. Before a close, two-thirds of Belo shareholders must give their approval -- about 42% have indicated they are on board.

Nielsen and Arbitron are currently involved in the second request process with the FTC over their proposed combination, which has a value of about $1 billion less than a Gannett-Belo marriage.

Under the deal announced in June, Gannett is acquiring Belo and would increase its portfolio to 43 stations from 23. Twenty-one of the stations would be in the top-25 markets.

Belo stations include the ABC affiliate in Dallas and CBS one in Houston, as well as the NBC affiliate in Seattle.

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