The FCC on Thursday suspended its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media to give Sinclair more time to make the spinoffs and showings needed to bring the deal into compliance with FCC ownership rules.
The FCC Thursday paused the 180-day “shot clock” on its review of Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune Media to give Sinclair more time to make “divestitures” and “showings” intended to bring the $3.9 billion deal into compliance with the FCC’s ownership rules.
The hold came a week after two Sinclair executives and one of its attorneys visited FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office and said it was working on the spin offs and showings. Based on the Jan. 4 meeting, the FCC said, “it is appropriate to stop the informal 180-day clock until after the … amendments and divestiture applications [that Sinclair promised] have been filed and staff has had an opportunity to fully review them.”
The showings for the FCC are aimed at allowing Sinclair to keep two network affiliated station in markets. The rules bar affiliate combos, but the FCC voted last November to consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
In the Jan. 4 meeting, Sinclair reps also acknowledged that the parallel review of the deal by the Justice Department’s anti-trust regulators “may impact certain divestiture choices.”
Sinclair has also been trying to convince the DOJ anti-trust regulators to allow ownership of two affiliates by expanding their definition of the market TV stations operate in. According to one source, the regulators have been resisting the argument.
If the regulators dig in, Sinclair may be forced to sell stations in as many as 10 markets. Fox is interested in buying at least some of the spin offs, sources have confirmed to TVNewsCheck.