All quiet on the Media General front


The battle of 2008 seems just a distant memory, when dissident shareholders kicked three directors off the board at Media General, only to have the controlling Bryan family expand the board and put two of them right back on. This week’s annual meeting had no such fireworks.

One item of business this year was saying farewell to Walter E. Williams, pictured, who retired from the board – voluntarily this time. He had been one of those voted off the board in 2008 and promptly reinstated.

“Dr. Walter Williams is retiring from our Board after 11 years of yeoman service. During most of that time, he has been the chairman of our Audit Committee, and he also has served on our Board’s Executive Committee. But these do not come close to conveying all that Walter has brought to our Board discussions and to this company. He has a very sharp mind and a keen wit. We will miss those, his judgment and his leadership,” said Chairman J. Stewart Bryan III.

Media General recently reported that revenues were down in Q1 – which had been expected in this year without a federal election or the Olympic Games.

CEO Marshall Morton gave shareholders an upbeat assessment of where the company’s television group is heading this year. “As of April 15, our full-year Broadcast revenue was pacing 2% ahead of last year, despite the absence of elections, Olympics and Super Bowl advertising. The underlying Broadcast television business is strong and the momentum is expected to continue. Our television stations have been successful lining up new business this year to help replace last year’s Political revenues. Big drivers of this effort are incentive programs aimed at volume advertisers and themed programming targeted to particular advertiser categories. We look for early spending on political campaigns and issues, especially in the latter part of this year,” he said.

The newspaper business, though, is still soft. “Our newspapers are working to mitigate overall softness in the business with a variety of new programs. Overall, our newspapers are focused on new small and medium-size advertisers and more sophisticated selling approaches. We continue to drive new sales with innovative campaigns and special sections, and our newspapers are using more incentive programs for volume advertisers,” Morton told shareholders.