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Allbritton Communications

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Title: Allbritton Communications  
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Subject: Fred Ryan, Sinclair Broadcast Group, WGWG, WABM, WBMA-LD
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Allbritton Communications

Allbritton Communications Company
Industry Media
Fate Acquired by Sinclair
Successor Sinclair Broadcast Group
Founded Washington, DC (1975 (1975))
Founder Joe L. Allbritton
Defunct August 1, 2014
Headquarters Arlington, Virginia, United States
Key people
Robert L. Allbritton (CEO)
Services Broadcasting, publishing

The Allbritton Communications Company was an American media company. Based in Arlington, Virginia, Allbritton was the leading subsidiary of Perpetual Corporation, a private holding company owned by the family of company founder and former Riggs Bank president Joe L. Allbritton.[1] Joe’s son, Robert L. Allbritton, was the Chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications from 2001 to 2014.[2] He is currently the owner of Capitol News Company, the parent company of political newspaper and website Politico.[3]

Allbritton was the last remaining TV station group to have all of its stations be affiliated with ABC (other than its O&Os) and the last remaining TV station group to have all its stations have an exclusive affiliation deal with one network, rather than affiliating with all six major broadcast networks.

Allbritton was previously a major owner of broadcast television stations; it owned a chain of eight television stations affiliated with ABC, anchored by its Washington, DC flagship WJLA-TV, and NewsChannel 8, a regional cable television network serving the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In May 2013, the company put all of its stations for sale, citing a desire to focus exclusively on Politico; they were ultimately sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.[4] The sale was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014, following a year-long delay to address improper duopolies in certain markets that would result from the purchase.[5]


  • History 1
    • Acquisition of television stations by Sinclair 1.1
  • Newspapers 2
  • Former Allbritton-owned Television stations 3
  • Footnotes 4


The company was formed in 1975 when Joe Allbritton bought the media interests of The Washington Star, including its television and radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission required him to sell off either the television or radio properties as a condition of the purchase, and Allbritton opted to sell the radio stations.

Acquisition of television stations by Sinclair

In May 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations; the move came as a result of the increasing success of Politico, which "continues to carry no debt, funds all investment with operating income and will still turn a profit, again, in 2013."[6][7] On July 29, 2013, the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire all of Allbritton's stations for $985 million.[8][9][10] In particular, Sinclair eyed the potential use of WJLA's NewsChannel 8 as a base to launch a national cable news channel.[11][12]

The planned acquisition was hit with a number of pitfalls due to conflicts between already Sinclair-owned or controlled stations in Allbritton's markets, and the FCC's recent actions involving local marketing agreements (LMAs) and joint sales agreements. Sinclair would have sold its existing stations in several Allbritton markets—WABM and WTTO in Birmingham, Alabama and WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Deerfield Media, and WMMP in Charleston, South Carolina to Howard Stirk Holdings, a company owned by conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams. The stations would have remained operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement. In December 2013, FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman sent a letter demanding information from Sinclair Broadcast Group on the financial aspects of its "sidecar" operations, and warned that in these three markets, "the proposed transactions would result in the elimination of the grandfathered status of certain local marketing agreements and thus cause the transactions to violate our local TV ownership rules." It was asserted that the deal might only be legal if the affected stations were operated under shared services agreements.[13][14]

Sinclair restructured the deal in March 2014, choosing to sell its existing stations in Harrisburg (WHP-TV), Charleston (WMMP) and Birmingham (WABM) and terminate an SSA with the Cunningham-owned Fox affiliate in Charleston to acquire Allbritton's WCIV, WHTM-TV, and WBMA-LD, while also creating a new duopoly between the ABC and CW affiliates in Birmingham), as well as foregoing any operational or financial agreements with the buyers of the stations being sold to other parties.[15][16] However, in May 2014, Sinclair disclosed in an FCC filling that it was unable to find buyers for the three affected stations, requiring changes to its transaction.[17] In Harrisburg, Sinclair chose to retain WHP-TV, and instead sell WHTM to Media General.[18] However, in Charleston and Birmingham, the company proposed to shut down stations entirely so it could maintain legal duopolies; surrendering the licenses for WCIV and the full-powered repeaters of WBMA-LD (WJSU and WCFT), and moving their ABC programming to Sinclair's existing stations WMMP and WABM respectively—which would planned shift their existing MyNetworkTV programming to digital subchannels, these station would since move ABC affiliation to digital subchannel.[19] After nearly a year of delays, Sinclair's deal to acquire Allbritton was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014.[5] Sinclair completed the sale on August 1.[20]


Allbritton launched Politico, a political news website and newspaper on January 23, 2007, the day of the 2007 State of the Union Address.

Allbritton launched Washington-area local news web site TBD in 2010. The site merged the web pages of the company's television stations, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and its cable sibling, NewsChannel 8. Jim Brady, a former Washington Post editor, ran the site.[21][22] Allbritton shut down TBD in 2012.

Allbritton owned the Washington Evening Star (1975–1978).

Former Allbritton-owned Television stations


  • (**) - Indicates a station that was built and signed-on by The Washington Star Company (predecessor of Allbritton Communications).


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  3. ^ FCC approves $1B Allbritton TV sale to Sinclair, Politico, 24 July 2014, Retrieved 1 August 2014.
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  20. ^ Sinclair's Deal For Allbritton Closes, Broadcasting & Cable, 1 August 2014, Retrieved 4 August 2014.
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