WASHINGTON Gannett Co Inc can move ahead with its purchase of Belo Corp as long as the deal does not include KMOV-TV, a St. Louis television station, antitrust enforcers at the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.
The station would give Gannett a dominant position in the St. Louis area if it were part of the deal, resulting in higher prices for advertisers, the department said in a statement.
The department said it had filed a proposed settlement in court that, if approved by a judge, would resolve its competitive concerns.
Gannett agreed to buy Belo for $1.5 billion in June in a move that will nearly double Gannett's broadcast holdings to 43 stations.
Gannett agreed to transfer ownership of six Belo stations in Phoenix and St. Louis to Sander Media because Gannett already owned stations in those markets.
Sander plans to operate the stations while Gannett provides some services to Sander.
"The full divestiture required by the department will ensure that KMOV-TV will remain a vigorous competitor in St. Louis," Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the department's antitrust division, said in a statement.
(Reporting by David Ingram and Jennifer Saba; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Bob Burgdorfer)