Conservative columnist Williams to buy two television stations

Deal brokered by Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting

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Conservative columnist, commentator and entrepreneur Armstrong Williams can add broadcast ownership to his professional resume. The Federal Communications Commission has approved the sale of two local television stations in Michigan and South Carolina to Mr. Williams, a decision he has been waiting for since late February.

“It’s as if I’ve been waiting on the birth of twins. You have to wait, you have to go the distance — and then you have to make the magic happen,” Mr. Williams, whose long-running column appears weekly in The Washington Times, said in an interview.

The purchase was made in concert with a broader series of station acquisitions brokered by Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 140 television stations in 72 markets. Sinclair’s television group reaches approximately 35 percent of U.S. television households and includes Fox, ABC, MyTV, CW, CBS, NBC and Azteca affiliates.

Mr. Williams‘ two new broadcast properties are WEYI, an NBC affiliate in Flint, Mich., and WWMB, a CW affiliate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Eventually, Mr. Williams also plans to acquire WMMP in Charleston, S.C., which is a Sinclair-controlled station.

The purchase is significant in the marketplace. According to the latest FCC statistics, there is scant diversity in broadcast ownership. Whites own 70 percent of the nation’s 1,348 television stations, the federal agency says, while blacks own less than 1 percent, or 10 stations, as of 2012. Mr. Williams is a longtime contributor to Sinclair programming.

“I am thrilled to have the support of Sinclair in terms of services and sales. Because of the cost of syndicated programming, it’s difficult for minority broadcasters and independent broadcasters to survive. My partnership with Sinclair is a blessing. They are a proven brand, and a success in a very competitive marketplace,” he said.

“This is quite humbling for me. I’ve really sought wisdom and advice preparing myself for this role. I want to be a good sole owner and my preference is to keep current employees in place.

“My other goal is to offer credible and accurate news, plus create original values-centered programming for parents and children,” he said. “I hope to remind people that values are what built America,” he added. “And we won’t be making celebrities out of journalists. We just want them to report on the news.”

Sinclair Broadcasting, meanwhile, has been on a vigorous buying spree itself. The company has proposed or closed an estimated $2 billion in television and radio station acquisitions this year; on Wednesday, the FCC approved the company’s $370 million purchase of 18 stations from an Illinois-based broadcast group.

Sinclair’s binge has not come without scrutiny. Critics say some of the deals, including those with Mr. Williams, are structured to skirt government broadcasting rules against concentration of ownership in individual markets. According to The Wall Street Journal, Sinclair will be guaranteeing the financing of Mr. Williams‘ purchase and will play a major role in the day-to-day management of the stations — an arrangement the company has negotiated with other owners in other markets.

Sinclair officials reject the criticism, and say the arrangements are legal and needed to remain competitive in light of challenges from the Web and other sources.

“To set the record straight, every transaction we have entered into completely complies with the law and the regulations of the FCC and where required, as was true in most cases, were approved by the FCC after full disclosure of each aspect of our transactions,” David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair, said in a statement.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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