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Sinclair Tweaks Divestiture Plan in Allbritton deal

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI - Get Report) announced Thursday it was revising plans for TV station divestitures necessary to win federal approval for its pending $985 million acquisition of the eight television stations owned by Allbritton Communications Co.

Sinclair's original plan faced a rough go before the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice because of regulators' plans to rein in joint sales and shared services agreements, two types of local TV partnerships broadcasters use to get around FCC rules limiting their ability to operate more than one TV station in a market.

Because of the ongoing FCC effort to limit the practice, the main trade group for broadcasters on Thursday offered a compromise to the commission.

In the Allbritton deal, to comply with FCC local television ownership limits, Sinclair originally planned to sell stations in Charleston, S.C., Harrisburg, Pa., and Birmingham, Ala., but would continue to provide sales and other nonprogramming support services to the buyers. Sinclair intended to sell its Birmingham stations WABM and WTTO and Harrisburg CBS affiliate WHP-TV to Deerfield Media Licensee in order to buy Allbritton's ABC affiliates WBMA Birmingham and WHTM-TV Harrisburg.

In Charleston it wanted to sell WMMP-TV (affiliated with MyNetwork) to Howard Stirk Holdings in order to acquire Allbritton's ABC affiliate WCIV-TV. Sinclair would have entered either joint sales agreements or shared services agreements with the buyers.

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