The Justice Department’s ruling that Gannett must find an independent buyer for KMOV in St. Louis could slow sidecar deals, an ownership structure that’s allowed many television companies to get around the Federal Communications Commission’s market-concentration rules.
The FCC has greenlighted dozens of sidecar deals, in which a nominally independent owner allows a competitor to control station operations. Gannett owns KSDK (Channel 5), and is buying Belo, the owner of KMOV (Channel 4).
The merger agreement called for Jack Sander, a former Belo executive, to own KMOV and hire Gannett for certain services. Gannett also was to provide a loan guarantee. The proposed ties were actually looser than in many sidecar agreements — the stations’ newscasts and advertising sales would have been kept separate — but they were too close for the Justice Department.