Friday, June 5, 2009

Atty General Fine With Tribune Plan to Merge 'Hartford Courant,' TV Newsroom

By Mark Fitzgerald

CHICAGO Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal now says he is satisfied that Tribune Co.'s plan to merge the news operations of The Hartford Courant and its Hartford television stations WTIC-TV and WTXX complies with its federal waiver from cross-media ownership.

Blumenthal had raised objection that putting the TV and newspaper new operations into the same physical newsroom and under the same management would limit "public access to diverse and competing sources of information."

He suggested it might violate the Federal Communications Commission's prohibition on same-market common ownership of newspaper and broadcast stations. Tribune obtained a waiver from those restrictions when it bought the Courant as part of its 2000 acquisition of Times Mirror Co.But in a letter to Blumenthal, Tribune Chairman and CEO Sam Zell said the Courant and WTIC, a Fox affiliate, "will continue to decide independently what news to present and how to present it to their print, broadcast and Internet audiences."

Zell also noted the three business units have long shared resources. "More direct access to the video journalism of the TV stations enables the Courant to be more relevant to its readers, and improve the 24/7 news coverage the newspaper offers on its Web site," Zell wrote.In a statement, Blumenthal said he was pleased with the response.

"I am encouraged by Mr. Zell's pledge that Fox 61 and the Hartford Courant will continue making news decisions -- what to cover and how to present it -- separately and independently," he said. "Such editorial independence is important to assuring diversity of viewpoints, coverage and opinions in the Hartford news market."

Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large.

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