Broadcasting & Cable magazine, in a story about how KRON 4 is doing following deep budget cuts, says the list of possible buyers for the station has changed. When KRON first went on the market in January, NBC and Fox Broadcasting were thought to be most interested. Now it appears the suitors are Fox, former Channel 2 general manager Kevin O’Brien (pictured below) and Hearst-Argyle Television.

    • Hearst-Argyle is a publicly held group of 26 stations including KCRA 3 in Sacramento and KSWB 8 in Salinas, both NBC affiliates. More than 80 percent of Hearst-Argyle’s stock is owned by the privately held Hearst Corp., which also owns the Chronicle and 30 percent of MediaNews Group’s assets outside the Bay Area. (Federal antitrust regulators have prohibited Hearst from owning MNG assets that compete with the Chronicle.) If Hearst were to acquire Channel 4, it would mean that KRON and the Chronicle would again have the same owner. The Chronicle owned KRON for 52 years. Then the newspaper was sold to Hearst and the TV station to Young Broadcasting. (The FCC in December 2007 changed its cross-ownership rules to allow a newspaper and TV station to be owned by the same company in the top 20 markets. Among those lobbying for the change was Dean Singleton, head of MediaNews.)

    • O’Brien and news director Fred Zehnder built KTVU’s “10 O’Clock News” into ratings powerhouse in the 1980s that was held out nationally as an example of how quality local TV news should be done. In 2001, O’Brien became president of Meredith Broadcasting, where he turned around a money-losing company in a couple of years. He was forced out, however, when workers complained that he used inappropriate language. O’Brien sued and Meredith settled for an undisclosed amount. He landed at Granite Broadcasting and led an unsuccessful effort to spin off Channel 20 to an investor group that he headed.

    • Fox is the only one of the four broadcast networks that doesn’t own a station in San Francisco. It has reportedly tried to buy its affiliate, Channel 2, but Atlanta-based Cox Broadcasting hasn’t been willing to sell. Still, it’s hard to say whether Fox has a strong interest in owning a station here. When it acquired Chris Craft’s stations in 2001, it could have held on to KBHK (now KBCW) Channel 44, but instead traded it to Viacom. Last year, Fox reduced its holdings of TV stations when it sold off O&Os in Cleveland, St. Louis, Denver, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Memphis and Greensboro, N.C. in order to free up cash so that its parent company, News Corp., could buy The Wall Street Journal.

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