The Hollywood Reporter: FCC Roadblock Halts Sinclair’s Growing Empire (For Now)
The Hollywood Reporter: FCC Roadblock Halts Sinclair's Growing Empire (For Now)
In the 14 months since Sinclair Broadcast Group unveiled a $3.9 billion deal to purchase Tribune Media (and the company’s 42 local television stations), analysts have quietly predicted that federal regulators would approve the deal.
But on July 16, the FCC’s politically conservative chairman, Ajit Pai, 45, turned things upside down, revealing that he has “serious concerns” about the tie-up and calling for an administrative law judge to take a look at whether Sinclair is planning to secretly control — through so-called “sidecar” deals — the local stations it must sell off to get the transaction approved. …
Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps says his former agency “designates transactions for an administrative hearing when the agency can’t find the transaction will serve the public interest.”
Copps points to several media mergers — including Comcast’s $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable in 2015 and AT&T’s agreement to buy T-Mobile in 2011 for $39 billion — that were withdrawn after being designated for review (or threatened with review). While Copps had consistently indicated that he expected the deal to be OK’d, he now says that “Sinclair will have a much harder time getting its merger approved.”
Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media, which would give the combined entity control of 233 local stations (before divestitures), has been met with opposition — including the bipartisan Coalition to Save Local Media (which Ruddy and Copps belong to) — since it was announced in May 2017.