Sale of Channel 2 remains up in air, despite withdrawal of two legal challenges


Legal challenges to the sale of WMAR-TV (Channel 2) from Gillett Broadcasting to Scripps Howard Broadcasting have been withdrawn, but a Scripps Howard spokesman says the deal is still "up in the air."

The deadline for closing the $154.7 million purchase agreement is today.

Scripps Howard said last week that because of two challenges to Federal Communications Commission approval of the broadcast-license transfer, it was "highly unlikely" that final approval could be obtained by yesterday, the date required in the agreement between the two parties.

But an FCC attorney said yesterday that a motion for reconsideration of the approval, filed by a California-based cable company, and a separate federal appeals court challenge, filed by the parent company of WBFF-TV (Channel 45), were withdrawn this week.

Rich Boehne, director of corporate communications for Scripps Howard, refused to say whether there are other problems that might be holding up the sale.

"It's up in the air. That's as far as I'm going to go," he said.

In an announcement last week, Scripps Howard said it would terminate the agreement "unless all conditions of purchase," including final FCC approval, were met.

Gillett officials could not be reached for comment and Channel 2 president and general manager Arnold Kleiner said he had no information on the status of the transaction.

The challenges to the license approval were based on FCC rules prohibiting new radio/television combinations. Scripps Howard owns WBSB-FM (B-104) here.

But FCC rules provide for waivers of the rule in the nation's top 25 markets that are served by at least 30 separate radio and television outlets -- conditions the commission found described Baltimore.

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