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WSJ: Justice Expected to Approve Sinclair's Purchase of Tribune

WSJ: Justice Expected to Approve Sinclair's Purchase of Tribune
(DreamsTime)

Thursday, 14 December 2017 08:19 AM

The Justice Department reportedly has signaled it is poised to approve Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s planned takeover of Tribune Media Co.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported that Justice wants the companies to sell off about 12 television stations.

The department “told the companies the deal as currently structured raises antitrust problems and that 12 to 13 station sales are necessary to alleviate concerns about competition in markets where a combined Sinclair-Tribune would otherwise have a commanding presence,” WSJ.com reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The exact list of markets the Justice Department has in mind for station selloffs “couldn’t immediately be learned, but the people familiar with the matter said it generally mirrors a list of overlapping markets Sinclair flagged in papers to the Federal Communications Commission,” the Journal explained.

That list included areas where Sinclair and Tribune each have stations that are in the top four locally, such as St. Louis and Salt Lake City.

Sinclair and Tribune also will need the approval of the FCC, which has a broad mandate to review whether the combination of the broadcasters would be in the public interest.

The head of the FCC late last month asked the agency to review rules capping television station ownership, a move that could speed consolidation in the industry, Reuters reported. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asked the four other members of the commission to vote to kick off a process to decide if the nation-wide cap, set at 39 percent of television-owning households, should be eliminated or raised, the agency said.

Big media firms like Tegna Inc., CBS Corp., Nexstar Media Group Inc. and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. have pushed for the change that would allow them to expand.

Pai, a Republican, said he wants to “seek public input on whether to modify, retain, or eliminate the 39 percent national cap.”

He said “a comprehensive review of the rule is warranted in light of considerable marketplace changes, such as technological developments and increased video programming options for consumers, since the cap was last modified in 2004” by U.S. Congress.

There is debate about whether the FCC has the legal authority to set the cap, designed to ensure that one company does not acquire an overwhelming ownership of the broadcast market, above the current 39 percent.

Craig Aaron, president and CEO of consumer advocacy group Free Press, said Pai has “teed up for elimination the last remaining firewall against completely unchecked media consolidation ... The result will be one or two dominant broadcasters in every market.”

In April, the FCC voted 2-1 to reverse a 2016 decision limiting the number of television stations some broadcasters could buy.

(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).

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The Justice Department reportedly has signaled it is poised to approve Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s planned takeover of Tribune Media Co.
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2017-19-14
Thursday, 14 December 2017 08:19 AM
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