(Updated Friday 7 a.m. with Tribune’s response) Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wrote the owner of Tribune Wednesday saying that the merger of the Hartford Courant, WTIC-TV, and WTXX-TV may violate the Federal Communications Commissions ban on a company owning a television station and newspaper in the same market.
“I am concerned that allowing these entities to fully merge into one news and information operation goes well beyond what the FCC intended when it granted Tribune a two-year limited waiver,” Blumenthal wrote in this letter to Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell.
Tribune said Blumenthal’s concerns are misplaced.
“I support exploration of innovative, alternative arrangements and business models that may allow newspapers to survive and continue to play their vital role holding government and business accountable,” Blumenthal wrote. “These new business models or partnerships may be “the future,” as one of your executives has characterized it. To advance this vision and goal, it must expand access to information and competition, not produce media monopolies that shut out voices, perspectives and important news stories.”
At the end of his letter Blumenthal asked Zell to answer a few questions. The first and most important question was: “Will job losses result from this consolidation? If so, how many, what type and which organization will bear the brunt of layoffs?”
Tribune Corporate Communications responded late Thursday to Blumenthal’s letter with the following response:
“Tribune’s decision to operate the Hartford Courant and its two television stations from one location in Hartford was designed to improve our ability to serve our readers, viewers and advertisers and the communities in which they live and work. Permitting WTIC and WTXX to draw on the rich newsgathering resources of the nation’s oldest newspaper makes them a better and more competitive news organization. Giving the Courant more direct access to the television stations’ video journalism makes the newspaper more relevant to its readers, and improves the 24/7 coverage the Courant and the stations provide over the internet . The Courant and the stations will continue to decide independently what news to present and how to present it to their print, broadcast and internet audiences.”
“These three business units have taken advantage of one another’s newsgathering resources for several years. This next step is in full compliance with the law, including the waivers granted by the FCC. We know our readers and viewers in Connecticut have many other choices to turn to for news, information and entertainment. In an economic environment where newspapers and broadcasters must innovate and become more efficient to survive, measures such as this are essential to preserve the quality journalism that the Courant and our television stations are known for. We appreciate Attorney General Blumenthal’s concerns, but we believe they are misplaced.”