By DON GLYNN email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — Gannett, which owns WGRZ (Ch. 2) in Buffalo, is in the process of buying KING-TV, the Seattle-based station with a rich history in the broadcast industry.
If regulators and shareholders of Belo Corp., the KING-TV owner, approve the purchase, Gannett will pay about $1.5 billion in cash while assuming a $715 million debt. Gannett, which has reported the largest newspaper circulation in the country, owned the Niagara Gazette for more than 40 years, before this paper was acquired by Community First Holdings Inc., of Birmingham, Ala.
Al Tompkins, a broadcast and online specialist with the Poynter Institute, said Thursday that Gannett and Belo are a good corporate match, with a concern for their investigative work and willingness to provide local stations with some autonomy. On the local front, WGRZ has gained significantly in ratings through its investigative coverage with such features as “Holding Public Officials Accountable.” That also has been a hallmark of KING-TV broadcasting for years.
There is, however, another side to the story. Some critics contend that Gannett now controls too much of what Americans read and watch. In fact, a spokesperson for Free Press, a Washington, D.C., watchdog on multiple media ownership, said the advocacy group will probably urge the Federal Communications Commission to take an indepth look at the proposed sale.
Thanh Tan, an editorial writer for the Seattle Times, has questioned the Gannett purchase. “Local television remains an integral part of so many lives. When ownership changes, our community loses a sense of certainty in a station — a critical thing for any company to have when it is responsible for delivery credible information to the masses.”
As a result of the KING-TV (Belo) purchase, Gannett will become one of the largest owners of network affiliates, reaching into about one-third of U.S. households. Virtually overnight, Gannett’s portfolio will jump from 23 to 43 stations. It will claim 21 stations in the nation’s top 25 TV markets.
Gannett shareholders had reason to be excited about the prospects too as the stock rallied $6.75, or 34 percent, to $26.60, its highest level since 2008.
Based originally in Rochester, N.Y., the Gannett Group that includes USA Today has corporate headquarters in McLean, Va. In the late 1990s, when Gannett bought Channel 2, the deal forced the sale of the Niagara Gazette because the government restricted multiple media outlets in the same market. The FCC could end up requiring Gannett to sell some stations in five markets where the restriction would apply. Stay tuned.
NEWSMAKER: Just two days after her Artpark performance, rock star Joan Jett filed a suit in the Manhattan federal court claiming that Hot Topic Inc. had ripped off the name of her longtime band and record label for its “Blackheart” line of “Lingerie for Girls Who Rock & Roll.” The New York Post headlined the article “Jett Sues Panty Raider$.”
Post reporter Bruce Golding quotes the court papers: “It states Hot Topic and its affiliated Blackheart Clothing Co. are exploiting Jett’s ‘iconic female rock star image’ to dupe customers into thinking she’s sponsored their skivvies.” A Hot Topic spokeswoman said the company is confident in its rights to use the Blackheart brand name.”
CLASSY TOUCH: Check out the flag-bedecked Niagara Street, from the South End all the way to Gill Creek Park and Hyde Park Boulevard. It’s part of the community project the Niagara Street Area Business & Professional Association launched a few years ago. It’s also an appropriate setting for the association’s 13th annual International Festival, June 22-23, from noon to 9 p.m. at the park. One restaurant employee said, “It really is a nice gesture and that’s something that Ron Anderluh (executive director of the association) has promoted right along.”
ON TOUR: Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot will be in the spotlight at Kleinhan’s Music Hall at 8 p.m. Oct. 25. Tickets ($35 to $75) will go on sale Tuesday and will be available at www.kleinhansbuffalo.org or by calling (716) 885-5000.
SENIOR’S ADVICE: Overheard at Mom’s Coffee Shop & Restaurant in the Mil-Pine Plaza: “You know worrying does work. At least 90 percent of the things I worry about never seem to happen” — a customer who fancies himself as a philosopher.
QUICKIE QUIZ: Founded in 1968, the former Warren-Hoffman & Associates opened its first office above what store at the corner of Falls and Main streets? (Answer Thursday)
Happy Fathers Day!Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.