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Broadcaster-a-Broadcaster: Nexstar Sues Granite Over Fox Affiliation

FORT WAYNE, IND.: Nexstar Broadcasting is crying monopoly in one of the markets where it dropped a Fox affiliation. The company filed a civil antitrust suit in the Northern District of Indiana against Granite Broadcasting, which picked up the Fox affiliation in for Fort Wayne. The agreement with Fox gives Granite control of three of the top four network affiliates in the market, No. 107 in the nation.

Granite’s WISE-TV carries NBC and will add Fox to a digital subchannel. It also runs WPTA-TV, the ABC affiliate, through a local marketing agreement with Malara Broadcast Group. The two stations also carry MyNetwork and the CW, bringing network affiliations between them to a total of five.

“Nexstar filed the litigation to remedy the anticompetitive impact that has been caused and will be caused by Granite’s efforts to monopolize local advertising sales in the Fort Wayne, Ind., designated market area,” the Irving, Texas, broadcast company said. “Granite will control local television advertising sales for stations affiliated with the Fox, NBC and ABC networks, as well as the CW and MyNetwork TV networks.”

Nexstar’s suit charges that Granite’s market footprint violates federal and state antitrust law.

“Nexstar is seeking a judgment that will cause Granite’s ability to control the advertising sales and revenues of at least one of the three ‘Big Four’ network affiliations to be terminated. It has also sought treble damages for injuries that it has sustained and will sustain as a result of Granite’s anticompetitive acts,” the company said, not specifying an amount.

Nexstar’s been busy this year, battling with Fox and more recently, exploring a sale. The company, which owns 65 TV stations, has been dropping Fox affiliations over the network’s demand for a split of retransmission fees. WFFT-TV, it’s Fort Wayne station, is going indie on Aug. 1. Last week, Nexstar announced that it had hired advisers to explore a possible sale.

Nexstar is being represented in its lawsuit by Constantine Cannon LLP and Krieg Devault LLP.

~ Deborah D. McAdams, Television Broadcast