By Ken Stone
A spinoff company of Gannett has made a deal to buy San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV from longtime owner Midwest Television. At least one station alumnus is critical of the move.
Called TEGNA, the 2-year-old company based in McLean, Virginia, also is buying KFMB-D2 (CW) and radio stations KFMB-AM and KFMB-FM.
The deal is worth $325 million, according to a joint news release Monday.
Broadcastingcable.com said Tegna would pay for the stations, subject to FCC approval, with a combination of cash and an existing credit facility.
“The company says it expects to close the deal by the first quarter of next year,” the site said.
“This is a marriage of two great broadcasting cultures,” said Dave Lougee, TEGNA president and CEO, in a statement. “We have long admired our dedicated colleagues in San Diego and look forward to continuing the stations’ high-quality journalism, editorial independence and commitment to their local community.”
Midwest Television has owned the Kearny Mesa stations since the early 1960s, and its president and owner Elisabeth Kimmel said: “This transaction is a testament to the outstanding value our employees have created serving the San Diego community.
“Having owned these properties for over 55 years, our family believed it imperative to find an excellent steward for television and radio stations that the community has embraced as part of the fabric of San Diego.”
Kimmel called TEGNA an innovative media company that “shares our commitment to the highest levels of journalistic integrity and serving the greater good of the community.”[contextly_sidebar id=”DekDfpya8m4zJMEb9zsDlgV6p8Bws3Z0″]She added in a statement: “We welcome TEGNA to San Diego with the knowledge that their values, resources and community leadership will serve our employees, consumers and customers for decades to come.”
TEGNA owns 46 TV stations in 38 markets, and calls itself the largest owner of top-4 affiliates in the top 25 markets, reaching about one-third of all television households nationwide.
Radio+Television Business Report said the biggest industry question is whether TEGNA will retain KFMB-AM & FM, or spin the stations to a third party.
“KFMB-FM is tied for 6th,… in the November 2017 Nielsen Audio ratings for San Diego. It is fueled largely by the Dave Shelley & Chainsaw morning show, previously at iHeartMedia’s KGB-FM 101.5 and, prior to that, at other stations in the market,” RBR.com said. “Other market veterans at KFMB-FM include Robin Roth and Mikey Esparza, host of The Mikey Show.”
On the station’s 65th anniversary in April, Channel 8 noted highlights of its history, including singing cowboy Smokey Rogers and his 10-year stint, and Bob Dale’s “Zoorama,” which it said made the San Diego Zoo world famous.
“By 1960, San Diegans started their day with ‘Sun Up San Diego,‘ hosted by … such luminaries as Bob Mills, Sue White, Sarah Purcell, Jerry G. Bishop and Kathi Diamant. Even David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld filled in, during ‘Sun Up’s’ amazing 30-year run,” the story said.
Former “Sun Up” co-host Danuta Pfeiffer, who spent seven years at KFMB-TV and KFMB-AM, wasn’t happy about the acquisition.
“Large corporations are slowly devouring the flavor of local identities so that no matter where you go in the country, the flavor is the same, bland and homogenous,” she told Times of San Diego via email.
“San Diego fell prey to outside interests when it lost its lovely Bazaar Del Mundo in Old Town to an out-of-town consortium. They mowed it under, reduced it to sand and then abandoned it to another buyer who has not been able to restore the luster of that gem, but turned the area into a cheap replica of what it once was.”
Pfeiffer, who left KFMB in 1983 for a similar role on “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, now is co-owner of Pfeiffer Winery in Junction City, Oregon.
“It seems if San Diego continues to sell its identity to the highest bidder — the price may very well be its soul,” she said.
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