TEGNA-Standard General-Apollo Merger Dealt Blow with Hearing Designation Order

Today, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Hearing Designation Order referring certain questions regarding the TEGNA-Standard General-Apollo Global Management before an Administrative Law Judge. The Order specifically questions how the transaction could artificially raise prices for consumers and result in newsroom job losses. Common Cause has filed a petition to deny and other pleadings opposed to this merger.

Statement of Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director

“The Hearing Designation Order makes it clear that Standard General and Apollo have failed to address the real-world harms their merger would cause to our local media ecosystem. The reality is that Standard General and Apollo made their business intentions clear from the beginning to downsize TEGNA’s stations post transaction, which would result in significant newsroom layoffs and reduce local news coverage. At the same time, the companies structured their deal to take advantage of contractual arrangements that would lead to price hikes for pay-TV subscribers.

“Despite the companies’ clear intentions, the FCC has given Standard General and Apollo every opportunity to show their merger is in the public interest. From their initial application to every response they filed regarding the FCC’s requests for additional information, the companies not only failed to show any transaction-specific public interest benefits but they have also failed to address the significant public interest harms that would result if the deal were approved.

“As we’ve stated repeatedly throughout this proceeding, private equity and hedge funds taking over our newsrooms has eroded local media – a critical tool for a functioning democracy. The cost-cutting measures private equity has applied to local media has led to reporter layoffs and consolidated newsrooms across the country. This merger would have only continued that downward trend.

“Now that the FCC has designated the transaction for a hearing, do not expect an Administrative Law Judge to act quickly. An administrative proceeding is a long and drawn out process where the companies have the burden of proof to show that the transaction would not result in the potential harms outlined by the FCC. The best path forward now is for the companies to withdraw their deal. This proceeding should serve as a warning to private equity and hedge funds looking to make a quick buck by tearing down one of the key pillars in our democracy.