A tectonic shift in Central Virginia's media landscape occurred last month with the announcement that Media General Inc. is merging with New Young Broadcasting. The privately held Nashville-based firm owns 12 television stations, including Richmond's WRIC-Channel 8, a Richmond magazine media partner.
In a joint statement, J. Stewart Bryan III, chairman of Media General, described the merger as a "transformational event."
The Bryan family, long associated with newspapering in this region, won't keep its majority stock ownership. The union is subject to the blessings of the Federal Communications Commission; antitrust regulators; and Media General's shareholders — including billionaire Warren Buffett, whose company bought many of Media General's newspapers, among them the Richmond Times Dispatch, just last year.
"The sale of the Richmond-Times Dispatch has finally enabled Media General to own a TV station
in Richmond," notes Marcus Messner, a professor at VCU's School of Mass Communications, referring to FCC rules that prevent media companies from owning a newspaper and a TV station in the same market.
"The merger with New Young Broadcasting might actually benefit Channel 8 and make it more competitive … as the combined company will better be able to renegotiate the debt burden both individual companies have been struggling with."
After the merger, the resulting company will have 30 stations in 27 U.S. markets.
Good news: The new firm will retain the Media General name and remain in Richmond.