Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Here's How Apollo-Cox Deal Sidestepped FCC Duopoly Regs

The 121-year old Dayton Daily News and two other Ohio newspapers will shrink to three days a week from daily publication to appease regulators who on Monday approved a $3.1 billion acquisition of Cox TV stations and newspapers by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

The NY Post reports the Leon Black-led Apollo proposed cutting back the print editions of the Pulitzer Prize winning Dayton Daily, among others, to get around FCC rules banning the same owner from having a TV station and daily newspaper in the same market.

The so-called duopoly rules were all but dead in recent years until a federal appeals court in Philadelphia reimposed them in September — throwing an unexpected wrench into Apollo’s acquisition plans of Cox Media Group.

To sidestep the rules, Apollo in late October proposed cutting the frequency of the three Ohio papers, arguing that since they would no longer be producing a print paper seven days a week and therefore not draw FCC scrutiny.

The FCC Ok’d the plan, which media observers say will likely result in job cuts to an already battered industry.

The duopoly regs did not have an impact on their original owner, Cox, because the company had started the Dayton-based TV station WHIO Channel 7 in 1949 and the duopoly rules to restrict media concentration went into effect in 1975.

The other two papers facing the cuts in print frequency are the Journal-News in Hamilton, Ohio and the Springfield News-Sun in Springfield, Ohio.

“Cox must modify the publication schedule of the three daily newspapers in Ohio in accordance with the representations made in the October 2019 Amendment within 30 days of consummation,” the FCC ruled in approving the merger Monday.

Dayton Daily News editor Jim Bebbington confirmed the news, which is just the latest jolt to newspaper markets as hedge funds and private equity firms buy up the battered newspapers nationally.

Apollo plans to call the new company Cox Media Group once the deal is finalized.

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