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June 2011 – Granite Broadcasting announces network affiliation with Fox
July 2011 – Nexstar Broadcasting says it will go it alone as an independent without Fox with creation of WFFT Local
Late July 2011 – A week after the WFFT Local announcement, it is learned that Nexstar has filed a federal civil antitrust lawsuit against Granite
July 2012 – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Fort Wayne denies Granite’s request to throw out Nexstar’s lawsuit

Antitrust lawsuit vs. Granite TV clears hurdle

One broadcast company controls local access to four major TV networks. A competitor says that’s too many, and a judge has agreed to consider its complaint.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Fort Wayne has given the green light for Nexstar Broadcasting Inc.’s lawsuit to move forward. The Irving, Texas, company filed the federal civil antitrust lawsuit against Granite Broadcasting Corp. of New York.

The conflict arose after Granite inked an agreement to show Fox programming, which came after Nexstar was unable to rework a deal with the network that features such popular hits as “American Idol,” “Glee” and the NFL.

Nexstar’s lawsuit accused Granite – which now broadcasts ABC, CW, Fox and NBC – of trying to “monopolize local advertising sales in the Fort Wayne” area. Nexstar contends that Granite’s network agreements unfairly position the company to set high advertising rates, which may trickle down to viewers.

Nexstar replaced Fox with WFFT Local. The station features expanded community news, popular syndicated shows and movies. Nonetheless, losing Fox hit the broadcaster hard. Nexstar contends Granite consumes about 45 percent of the broadcast TV local spot advertising revenue in the Fort Wayne area. The company also alleges that Granite has “used lucrative compensation packages to entice key Nexstar sales employees who have confidential and proprietary information pertaining to Nexstar’s advertising prices.”

Besides seeking unspecified damages, Nexstar wants the court to stop Granite or its partners from controlling TV stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and bar Granite from hiring Nexstar employees and getting proprietary info.

No court date has been set.