The fight between Gray Television and Media General over operation of Augusta, Ga., NBC affiliate WAGT has, in effect, ended. In a filing Tuesday with the Georgia Supreme Court, Media General withdrew its injunction, which the high court suspended last month and which had kept Gray Television from operating the station for much of February and March.
A federal judge will hear arguments this Thursday involving a contract dispute between the station’s new owner, Gray Television, and Media General, the company that has been operating WAGT (NBC) under a long-term contract with former owner Schurz Communications. Gray, owner of Augusta’s WRDW (CBS), says the agreement dissolved when it acquired the NBC affiliate from Schurz. Media General, which owns WJBF (ABC), maintains the joint operating agreement is still in effect.
A judge’s action Friday might delay Schurz Communications from selling NBC affiliate WAGT Augusta, Ga., to Gray Television Group, which operates the market’s CBS affiliate WRDW. The conflict between Media General and its ABC affil WJBF and the owners of the two other stations is complicated by the involvement of federal agencies and spectrum usage rights, but it boils down to a contract dispute, Judge Michael N. Annis said.
When Media General’s Augusta, Ga., ABC affiliate WJBF took management control of Schurz’s NBC affillate WAGT in 2009, one of its goals was to maintain the distinct personality of WAGT. So, when Media General moved the duopoly into a renovated Barnes & Noble bookstore last fall, each station got its own newsroom and studio. Although the gear is the same, the on-air products are not.
Newsy Ramps Up For 24/7 News
Augusta, Ga., may be a small market, but its main newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle, is making big noise as one of the few sites to have found success with a metered paywall. Competition from local TV outlets, three of which are owned by Media General, is tepid.