Allbritton Communications Company
FoundedWashington, D.C. (1975; 47 years ago (1975))
FounderJoe L. Allbritton
DefunctAugust 1, 2014; 8 years ago (2014-08-01)
FateAcquired by Sinclair
SuccessorSinclair Broadcast Group
Key people
Robert L. Allbritton (CEO)
ServicesBroadcasting, publishing

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.[1] Joe’s son, Robert L. Allbritton, was the Chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications from 2001 to 2014.[2] He is currently the owner of Capitol News Company, the parent company of political newspaper and website Politico.[3]

Allbritton was the last remaining TV station group to have all of its stations be affiliated with ABC (other than its O&Os) 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 eight 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.[4] 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.[5]


The company was formed 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.

In May 1994, Birmingham ABC affiliate WBRC was sold to New World Communications, which signed an affiliation agreement with eleven other stations which would become Fox affiliates. WBRC, along with Piedmont Triad ABC affiliate WGHP, were placed in a blind trust in the fall of 1994, as the FCC prohibited a company from owning more than twelve television stations at the time.[6][7] Both stations were sold to Fox directly in July 1995, but Fox was forced to run WBRC as an ABC affiliate for over a year after the sale, as WBRC's affiliation contract with ABC did not expire until August 1996. Before WBRC became a Fox owned-and-operated station, Allbritton purchased WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV, and made them full power satellites of WBMA-LP; this prompted Allbritton to sign a groupwide affiliation deal with ABC which caused WCIV and Brunswick sister station WBSG-TV (now Ion Television O&O WPXC-TV to become ABC affiliates. The latter had joined ABC as a semi-satellite of WJXX, which replaced WJKS as Jacksonville's ABC affiliate upon its 1997 sign-on).[8][9]

In June 1998, ABC parent The Walt Disney Company entered into negotiations to purchase the eight Allbritton stations and its local marketing agreements involving fellow ABC affiliates WJSU-TV (now WGWW) in Anniston, Alabama and WJXX in Jacksonville, Florida, for a reported offer totaling more than $1 billion; the latter two stations had been involved in an affiliation deal between Allbritton and ABC that was reached in response to the May 1994 affiliation deal between New World Communications and Fox that affected WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama.[10][11] Negotiations between Disney and Allbritton broke down when the former dropped out of discussions to buy the stations the following month.[12]

Acquisition of television stations by Sinclair

In May 2013, reports surfaced that Allbritton was planning to sell its television stations; the move came as a result of the increasing success of Politico, which "continues to carry no debt, funds all investment with operating income and will still turn a profit, again, in 2013."[13][14] On July 29, 2013, the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire all of Allbritton's stations for $985 million.[15][16][17] In particular, Sinclair eyed the potential use of WJLA's NewsChannel 8 as a base to launch a national cable news channel.[18][19]

The planned acquisition was hit with a number of pitfalls due to conflicts between already Sinclair-owned or controlled stations in Allbritton's markets, and the FCC's recent actions involving local marketing agreements (LMAs) and joint sales agreements. Sinclair would have sold its existing stations in several Allbritton markets—WABM and WTTO in Birmingham, Alabama and WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Deerfield Media, and WMMP in Charleston, South Carolina to Howard Stirk Holdings, a company owned by conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams. The stations would have remained operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement. In December 2013, FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman sent a letter demanding information from Sinclair Broadcast Group on the financial aspects of its "sidecar" operations, and warned that in these three markets, "the proposed transactions would result in the elimination of the grandfathered status of certain local marketing agreements and thus cause the transactions to violate our local TV ownership rules." It was asserted that the deal might be legal only if the affected stations were operated under shared services agreements.[20][21]

Sinclair restructured the deal in March 2014, choosing to sell its existing stations in Harrisburg (WHP-TV), Charleston (WMMP) and Birmingham (WABM) and terminate an SSA with the Cunningham-owned Fox affiliate in Charleston to acquire Allbritton's WCIV, WHTM-TV, and WBMA-LD, while also creating a new duopoly between the ABC and CW affiliates in Birmingham), as well as foregoing any operational or financial agreements with the buyers of the stations being sold to other parties.[22][23] However, in May 2014, Sinclair disclosed in an FCC filling that it was unable to find buyers for the three affected stations, requiring changes to its transaction.[24] In Harrisburg, Sinclair chose to retain WHP-TV, and instead sell WHTM to Media General.[25] However, in Charleston and Birmingham, the company proposed to shut down stations entirely so it could maintain legal duopolies; surrendering the licenses for WCIV and the full-powered repeaters of WBMA-LD (WJSU and WCFT), and moving their ABC programming to Sinclair's existing stations WMMP and WABM respectively—which would planned shift their existing MyNetworkTV programming to digital subchannels, these station would since move ABC affiliation to digital subchannel.[26] After nearly a year of delays, Sinclair's deal to acquire Allbritton was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014.[5] Sinclair completed the acquisition on August 1; WHTM would be operated under a "hold separate agreement" until the sale of that station was completed to Media General on September 2.[27]


Allbritton launched Politico, a political news website and newspaper on 2007,[28][29] the day of the 2007 State of the Union Address. It was spun out to Capitol News Company, a company separately and still owned by Allbritton, in 2009.

Allbritton launched Washington-area local news web site TBD in 2010. The site merged the web pages of the company's television stations, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and its cable sibling, NewsChannel 8. Jim Brady, a former Washington Post editor, ran the site.[30][31] Allbritton shut down TBD in 2012.[32]

Allbritton owned the Washington Evening Star from 1975 to 1978 when Time Inc. purchased the paper from Allbritton (the "Evening" part of the name was removed by the end of the 1970s); the paper shut down in 1981.

Former Allbritton-owned Television stations

City of license / Market Station
  • Years
  • owned
Current ownership status
Birmingham, Alabama WBMA-LD 58 (40) 1994–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Anniston, Alabama WJSU-TV[a] 40 (9) 1996–2014 Heroes & Icons affiliate WGWW owned by Howard Stirk Holdings
Tuscaloosa, Alabama WCFT-TV[a] 33 (33) 1996–2014 Heroes & Icons affiliate WSES owned by Howard Stirk Holdings
Little Rock, Arkansas KATV 7 (22) 1982–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Washington, DC WJLA-TV ** 7 (7) 1975–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Jacksonville, Florida WJXX 25 (10) 1997–2000 ABC affiliate owned by Tegna Inc.
Brunswick, Georgia WBSG 21 (24) 1997–2001 Ion Television (O&O) WPXC-TV owned by Ion Media Networks
Tulsa, Oklahoma KTUL-TV 8 (10) 1982–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania WHTM-TV 27 (10) 1996–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Charleston, South Carolina WCIV ** 4 (34) 1975–2014 Heroes & Icons affiliate WGWG owned by Howard Stirk Holdings[b]
Lynchburg - Roanoke, Virginia WSET-TV 13 (13) 1975–2014 ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group


  1. ^ a b Satellite of WBMA.
  2. ^ Intellectual property transferred to WMMP, renamed WCIV.


  1. ^ O'Brien, Timothy L. (2004-05-09). "Corporate Art Lovers Who Hate That Big Tax Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  2. ^ "Company Overview of Allbritton Communications Company". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  3. ^ FCC approves $1B Allbritton TV sale to Sinclair, Politico, 24 July 2014, Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Sinclair Buying Allbritton Stations For $985M". TVNewsCheck. 29 July 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b Eggerton, John (24 July 2014). "FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  6. ^ Geoffrey Foisie; Julie A. Zier (August 22, 1994). "Fox et al. to buy three stations; affiliation shuffle continues". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  7. ^ Kim McAvoy (April 10, 1995). "The FCC last week approved New World's plans to transfer WGHP-TV Greensboro, N.C., and WBRC-TV Birmingham, Ala., into a trust for eventual sale to Fox". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. Archived from the original on October 16, 2015. Retrieved December 5, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  8. ^ "Allbritton Communications Co. and ABC have signed a 10-year affiliation agreement". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. April 22, 1996. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  9. ^ Charlie Patton (August 21, 1997). "Jags fans in lather over TV". The Florida Times-Union. Morris Communications. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  10. ^ Jerry Knight; Paul Farhi (June 17, 1998). "Disney in Talks to Buy WJLA; ABC Would Take Over Allbritton's Television Empire". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 14, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  11. ^ Sara Brown (June 22, 1998). "ABC dealing for Allbritton's TVs". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Business Information. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 11, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017 – via World Radio History.
  12. ^ Paul Farhi (July 25, 1998). "Disney Ends Talks to Buy WJLA". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved December 12, 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  13. ^ Wemple, Erik. "Allbritton exploring sale of TV assets". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  14. ^ Farhi, Paul; Heath, Thomas (2013-05-02). "Allbritton to sell its TV holdings, including WJLA and NewsChannel 8". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-06-09. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  15. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (2013-07-29). "Allbritton selling eight TV stations, including WJLA, to Sinclair for $985 million". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  16. ^ Calderone, Michael (2013-05-01). "Politico Owner Considers Sale Of TV Stations". Huffington Post.
  17. ^ Stelter, Brian; Kaufman, Leslie (2013-07-29). "Sinclair Group Is Buying 7 Allbritton TV Stations". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  18. ^ Eggerton, John (July 29, 2013). "Sinclair Buying NewsChannel 8 in D.C." Multichannel News. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  19. ^ Malone, Michael (July 30, 2013). "Sinclair Plans National Rollout for Allbritton Cable Channel". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  20. ^ Hagey, Keach (December 6, 2013). "FCC Asks Sinclair to Revise Plans to Use 'Sidecar' Companies". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  21. ^ Halonen, Doug (December 6, 2013). "FCC Targets Sinclair Sidecar Deals In 3 Mkts". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  22. ^ Eck, Kevin (March 21, 2014). "Sinclair Offers to Sell Stations Ahead of FCC Decision". TVSpy. Mediabistro. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
  23. ^ "Sinclair Proposes Restructuring of Allbritton Transaction in Order To Meet Objections of the Federal Communications Commission". PR Newswire (Press release). Baltimore. March 20, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014 – via The Wall Street Journal.
  24. ^ Jessell, Harry A. (May 29, 2014). "Sinclair Giving Up 3 Stations To Appease FCC". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  25. ^ "Media General Buying WHTM For $83.4M". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheckMedia. June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  26. ^ Eggerton, John (May 29, 2014). "Sinclair Proposes Surrendering Three Licenses to Get Allbritton Deal Done". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  27. ^ Sinclair's Deal For Allbritton Closes, Broadcasting & Cable, 1 August 2014, Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  28. ^ Heath, Thomas; Wilgoren, Debbi (2013-07-29). "Allbritton selling eight TV stations to Sinclair for $985 million". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  29. ^ "The Inside Story of the Politico Break-Up". Washingtonian. 2016-07-17. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  30. ^ "TBD - Home". TBD: What’s Next.
  31. ^ Kurtz, Howard (2009-10-29). "Allbritton Communications will debut this spring a new web site on local news in D.C". The Washington Post.
  32. ^ "Politico owner rolls out new tech-focused media venture". Retrieved 2020-04-30.