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Time Warner to sell TV station as it seeks AT&T merger OK

Signage that reads Time Warner is seen at the Time Warner Center in New York City, U.S. on October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) said on Thursday it plans to sell a broadcast station in Atlanta to Meredith Corp (MDP.N) for $70 million, which could help speed the company's planned merger with AT&T Inc (T.N).

In January, AT&T said it expected to be able to bypass the Federal Communications Commission in its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner because it would not seek to transfer any Time Warner licenses.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai declined to say on Thursday if he would seek to use the proposed TV station license transfer as a way to examine the AT&T/Time Warner merger. About a dozen senators have urged him to review the deal.

The station that Time Warner is selling, WPCH-TV in Atlanta, is its only FCC-regulated broadcast station. It has other, more minor FCC licenses.

Meredith has operated WPCH-TV for Time Warner since 2011. It was previously know as WTBS.

Time Warner said last month that since it did not plan to transfer any FCC licenses to AT&T, it would likely not need FCC approval and would only need the consent of the U.S. Justice Department.

The Justice Department has to prove a proposed deal harms competition in order to block it. The FCC has broad leeway to block a merger it deems is not in the "public interest" and can impose additional conditions.

Meredith said in a statement it expected to close on the sale by June 30 and that the deal would not have a material impact on its results.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told CNBC earlier this month the Justice Department review was ongoing and he thought the deal would close by the end of the year. "It's a clean transaction," he said.


(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)