ATLANTA - A recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gives Cox Media Group (CMG) a 60-day extension before it must reduce the publication schedule of its Ohio newspapers. This means the company can continue publishing the papers seven days a week. CMG had until January 16th to reduce the newspapers’ publication from a daily print schedule to three days a week, in order to comply with a recent federal court decision.
Keeping the daily publication status of these papers intact has been and continues to be a major priority for CMG and the company’s new owners, private equity funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, Inc. The FCC’s extension gives CMG until March 16 to complete a sale to a party who is not obligated to modify the newspapers’ publication schedule. CMG expects to have completed a sale to such a buyer by that time, and most importantly, the FCC move allows the company to maintain its focus on its employees and the communities in Ohio that those three papers serve.
When affiliates of Apollo agreed to purchase Cox Media Group on February 14, 2019, it was permissible for a company to own both a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market – as Cox had done in Ohio since 1935.
On September 23, 2019 however, prior to the transaction gaining approval from the FCC, a three-judge panel from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals revived an antiquated rule prohibiting an owner from operating both a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market. The FCC has repeatedly sought to revise or repeal this rule and appealed the three-judge decision to the entire Third Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal was denied on Nov. 20; CMG was, therefore, left with no option but to agree to reduce the publication of these Ohio newspapers to three days a week — essentially making them non-daily newspapers — for the FCC to approve the sale of CMG.
When the FCC approved the sale on Nov. 22, CMG had a tight timeline of only 30 days, post-close, to reduce the publication of the paper from a daily status to three days a week, or to find a new owner. The transaction closed on Dec. 17 and completing a sale to another buyer in order to avoid a reduction in publication was not realistic in this time frame.
“We applaud the decision by the FCC and are grateful for the extension,” said Cox Media Group CEO Kim Guthrie. “News does not conveniently schedule itself three days a week and we felt a reduced print schedule would negatively and severely impact the newspapers, our employees and the communities we serve. CMG and Apollo have been pushing for this outcome because we feel that maintaining a daily publication schedule is the absolute best way to continue to produce the solid and timely journalism that our readers deserve.”
Since the Dayton Daily News published its first newspaper 121-years ago, the company has been unwavering in its commitment to local journalism. CMG Ohio’s newspaper, radio and TV teams have worked together to provide quality journalism to inform their communities, diligently reporting on local stories like the outbreak of tornadoes in May 2019 and the mass shooting in the Oregon District in August.
“The FCC’s extension aligns with our long-term commitment to daily publication,” said Rob Rohr, market vice president of CMG’s Ohio properties. “But it never would have happened without the hard work of Cox Media Group leadership, the support of Apollo Global Management’s team and of course, the FCC. We can now work within a more realistic time frame to make thoughtful decisions and find the right solution for the future of these newspapers.”