In response to the FCC’s Sept. 14 request for “specific plans” on how it intends to comply with ownership limits, Sinclair said in a late filing today it would be “premature” to set forth any plans given the DOJs concurrent review of the deal and the possibility the FCC may relax the limits.
Three weeks ago, the FCC gave Sinclair until today (Oct. 5) to divulge its “specific plans” for complying with the national and local broadcast limits should the FCC approve its pending merger with Tribune Media.
But, in its response filed Thursday evening, Sinclair said it would be “premature” to say what stations it might spin off to comply. Before doing that, it said, it wanted to wait and hear from the Department of Justice, which is also reviewing the deal, and see if the FCC might relax the rules.
The proposed $3.9 billion merger would expand Sinclair’s national reach to 45.5% of TV households, far in excess of the 39% limit.
And it would violate the local rule limiting groups to just one Big Four affiliate per market in 10 markets — Seattle; St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; Oklahoma City; Greensboro, N.C.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Richmond, Va.; and Des Moines, Iowa.
Sinclair told the FCC it is making contingency plans in the event divestiture become necessary. It said it hired investment banker Moelis & Co. last July to find buyers for some of its stations among broadcasters and outside investors.
“The outcomes of negotiations with potential buyers could impact the license divestitures Sinclair would make,” Sinclair said.