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DOJ files suit to force Raycom divestiture of WTVR-TV

The Department of Justice last week filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Raycom Media seeking to force its divesture of WTVR-TV, the local CBS affiliate in Richmond, VA.

In April, Raycom acquired NBC affiliate, WWBT-TV, from Lincoln Financial Media subject to an agreement with the department requiring the media group to sell the CBS affiliate within 90 days.

The transaction, as originally proposed, would have resulted in Raycom owning two of the four local broadcast stations, which likely would have led to higher prices for those seeking to advertise on local broadcast television, the department said.

The Antitrust Division of the department filed the lawsuit on Aug. 28 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to challenge Raycom’s acquisition. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the lawsuit and the department’s competitive concerns.

According to the complaint, the two broadcast television stations now owned by Raycom are two of the top four broadcast television stations in Richmond, as measured by advertising revenue. Prior to the transaction, the stations competed head-to-head in Richmond for buyers of spot broadcast television advertising time.

Combined, the two stations earn more than 50 percent of the broadcast television spot advertising revenue in Richmond. Therefore, the divestiture is required to assure continued competition in the market, the department said.

The department’s Antitrust Division must approve the purchaser of WTVR-TV to ensure that the sale will restore the competition in the Richmond market that existed before Raycom purchased the Lincoln station.