Allbritton

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. Joe’s son, Robert L. Allbritton, was the Chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications from 2001 to 2014. He is currently the owner of Capitol News Company, the parent company of political newspaper and website Politico.

Allbritton was the last remaining TV station group to have all of its stations be affiliated with ABC  and the last remaining TV station group to have all its stations have an exclusive affiliation deal with one network, rather than having affiliates aligned with any of the all six major broadcast networks.

Allbritton was previously a major owner of broadcast television stations; it owned a chain of 8 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. 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.

The company was formed back in 1975 when Joe Allbritton bought controlling interest The Washington Star Company, including its television and radio stations–WMAL-AM-FM-TV in Washington; WLVA-AM-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia; and WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina. The Federal Communications Commission required him to sell off either the newspaper or the broadcast properties in Washington as a condition of the purchase. By this time, the FCC had tightened its rules on cross-media ownership, and had all but banned one person from owning newspapers and broadcast properties in the same market while grandfathering existing combinations.

However, due to the way Allbritton’s takeover of the Star was structured, the FCC considered it an ownership change and stripped the WMAL stations of their grandfathered protection. Allbritton opted to sell the Star Company’s non-television assets. Both WMAL-TV and WLVA-TV changed their call letters to WJLA-TV and WSET-TV, respectively in 1977, due to FCC rules at the time that prohibited TV and radio stations in the same market, but with different ownership from sharing the same call letters.

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