April 17, 2017 / 8:44 PM / in 7 months

FCC approves Time Warner sale of Atlanta TV station

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Monday it approved Time Warner Inc’s (TWX.N) sale of a broadcast station in Atlanta to Meredith Corp (MDP.N), a transaction that could help speed Time Warner’s planned merger with AT&T Inc (T.N).

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

In January, AT&T said it expected to be able to bypass the FCC in its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner because it would not seek to transfer any significant Time Warner licenses.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said previously he did not plan to use the proposed TV station license transfer as a way to examine the AT&T-Time Warner merger. About a dozen senators had urged him to review the deal.

The station that Time Warner is selling, WPCH-TV, for $70 million, is its only FCC-regulated broadcast station. It has other, more minor FCC licenses.

Meredith has operated WPCH-TV for Time Warner since 2011. It was previously known as WTBS.

In a statement on Monday, Meredith said it was pleased the FCC approved the application and that it anticipated “moving forward expeditiously to close this deal.”

The company said in February it expected to close on the sale by June 30 and that the deal would not have a material impact on its results.

Time Warner did not immediately comment on the FCC approval.

The Justice Department has to prove a proposed deal harms competition in order to block it. The FCC has broad leeway to block a merger it deems is not in the “public interest” and can impose additional conditions.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told CNBC in February the Justice Department review was ongoing and he thought the deal would close by the end of the year.

“It’s a clean transaction,” he said.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney

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