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With Sale Of 10TV, National Owners Dominate Television In Columbus

WBNS broadcasting tower in Columbus.
WBNS broadcasting tower in Columbus.

Channel 10 is changing hands. As part of a $535 million deal, the Dispatch Broadcast Group is selling its television and radio stations, WBNS-TV, AM, and FM, plus a television station and digital channel based in Indiana.

WBNS was one of the last major commercial television stations in Central Ohio to be locally owned.

"They were constantly reinvesting in the product, and it showed on the air and it showed when people said, 'These guys obviously get us because they're local,'" says Tim Feran, a former Columbus Dispatch reporter who covered Ohio media for years.

Feran says the purchase by Virginia-based TEGNA also marks the end of the Wolfe family media dynasty – the family sold the Dispatch to New York-based GateHouse Media in 2015, for just $47 million. He adds that WBNS was known as a pioneering local station, since they started broadcasting in 1949.

“Channel 10 was really kind of notable for being local and first. [...] They have been first in so many ways," Feran says. "First color, first digital, first mobile, first helicopters.'"

Feran doesn’t know if a change in ownership will change that ethos.

"TEGNA, you know, they're based elsewhere. They're a national company," he says. "They're listed on Wall Street. And Wall Street is interested in, 'What have you done for me lately? How much money are you bringing in?' Not whether or not you look good in the local community."

TEGNA owns 49 television stations in 41 markets and is the country's largest group owner of NBC-affiliated stations and the second-largest group owner of CBS-affiliated stations.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.