Just weeks ago it seemed WKRG-TV and WALA-TV might be thrown back into the same boat they were in not so long ago when a merger of their corporate parents required one of the stations to be sold off to satisfy FCC regulations. Now, a hostile takeover of Media General may change all of that.

In September it was announced that Media General Inc. and Meredith Corporation would merge in a $2.4 billion deal that would effectively bring WKRG and WALA back under the same corporate umbrella. Last summer WALA was sold to Meredith after Media General bought LIN Media, which at the time owned WALA and its sister station WFNA. Meredith bought WALA from Media General later in the summer, though. Media General kept WFNA.

So it was assumed the latest merger would end up having at least one station — most likely WALA — back up on the block, but just a couple of weeks after announcing it was going after Meredith, Media General is now the target of a hostile takeover. The Nexstar Broadcasting Group has made a $4.1 billion bid for Media General, and the new deal would effectively terminate its agreement with Meredith, according to reports in industry publications. If it goes through, the Nexstar-Media General merger would create the third largest station group in the country.

All of this may have employees at WALA breathing a little easier these days, as it looks like they may not have new corporate leadership coming in again so soon.

Police believe reporter self-immolated
Last week Hoover police said an al.com sports reporter who has been in UAB hospital with severe burns for more than a month following a car crash and fire Sept. 8 was responsible for starting the blaze.

Natalie Pierre Williams is accused by Hoover police of starting the fire that caused burns to more than 75 percent of her body. According to police and published accounts, the fire started around 2:30 a.m. Sept. 8, which happened to be Williams’ birthday. Originally it was reported that Williams and her husband had been in a car accident, her husband had left, then returned to find it on fire.

Police now say the crash could not have been severe enough to have caused the fire and that Williams was seen on surveillance video from a nearby convenience store purchasing a gas can, a gallon of gasoline and a lighter just minutes before the fire. Both she and her husband subsequently told police they were engaged in an argument when the crash occurred. Police believe Williams started the fire but don’t know whether she meant to harm herself or if it was accidental.

She has undergone numerous surgeries since arriving at UAB. Police say they currently have no plans to charge anyone in the incident.

Trade association questions agencies
Just a couple of weeks after we reported on advertisers potentially being routinely overcharged for pre-print inserts running in daily newspapers across the country, a leading advertising trade association is looking into the practices of media agencies on behalf of advertisers who are concerned about the lack of transparency in circulation data these days.

The New York Times reported Oct. 20 that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), a collective of roughly 700 companies that spend hundreds of billions on advertising and marketing, have hired two major firms to look into “questionable” media-buying tactics. The ANA hired K2 Intelligence, a corporate investigative consulting firm, and a marketing auditor associated with Ebuquity consulting to handle the inquiry.

According to the Times article, advertisers have become more worried about how their media buying agencies are doing business, in particular about how media companies hand rebates to agencies that aren’t passed on to advertisers. A survey of roughly 150 marketers done by ANA last year showed 46 percent of those polled were “concerned about the transparency of their media buys.”

The investigation is expected to likely last into next year and will interview advertisers, agency executives, consultants and researchers about industry practices. Overall they hope it will lead to more transparency in the ad-buying-and-selling industries.

Mea Culpa
In the Oct. 8 Media Frenzy story concerning advertising consultant Jay Schiller’s concerns that some daily newspapers are not properly telling advertisers about circulation declines, leading to overcharges when it comes to pre-printed advertising insertions, clarification is necessary regarding Schiller’s comments on a $150,000 refund to a Times-Picayune advertiser. I reported that the T-P wrote that client a check, but Schiller says no check was written; rather, the client was given a $150,000 credit with the newspaper to make up for the overcharges.