WMAR-TV sale to Scripps still up in air


Scripps Howard Broadcasting says it will not immediately terminate its agreement to purchase WMAR-TV (Channel 2) from Gillett Broadcasting, despite the passing of yesterday's deadline to complete the deal.

In a two-sentence announcement, Scripps Howard said it had sent a letter to Gillett saying its board of directors will meet next week to review the status of the $154.7 million agreement and "consider the matter of termination."

Rich Boehne, director of corporate communications for Scripps Howard, would not elaborate except to say that the board meeting had not been scheduled.

Repeated calls to Gillett officials at the company's headquarters in Colorado were not returned.

Arnie Kleiner, president and general manager of WMAR, said he did not know what was delaying consummation of the agreement. He said that as far as he knows, Gillett is still interested in selling the station.

A week ago, Scripps Howard said it would terminate the August purchase agreement "unless all conditions of purchase," including Federal Communication Commission approval of the license transfer, were met.

At the time, the Cincinnati-based communications company said it was "highly unlikely" that final FCC approval could be obtained by Jan. 31, the date required in the agreement, because of two pending legalchallenges to the transfer.

But an FCC attorney said Thursday that the challenges -- one filed by a California-based cable company and the other by the parent company of WBFF-TV (Channel 45) -- had been withdrawn.

The challenges were based on FCC rules prohibiting new radio-television combinations. Scripps Howard owns WBSB-FM (B-104) here. But the FCC can waive the prohibition in a market that is among the nation's top 25 if it is served by at least 30 separate radio and television outlets, conditions that the FCC said Baltimore meets.

In addition to B-104, Scripps Howard owns and operates nine television stations, four radio stations and cable television systems with more than 250,000 subscribers.

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