Big Mergers in Holding Patterns

Washington — Proposed media mergers are beginning to stack up in a Republican-controlled Washington, D.C., which might be a surprise were it not for the peripatetic course set by a pro-business president who has opposed mergers involving media companies he dislikes.

At press time the Sinclair Broadcast Group-Tribune Media deal was still in Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission limbo, with the former yet to weigh in and the latter yet to restart its shot clock on vetting the latest, and fourth, iteration of the transaction in Sinclair’s attempt to woo regulators and sweeten the deal with more or different station spinoffs.

Even if Justice signs off, the FCC will need to take most of six weeks more before it renders a decision, since it has signaled it will put out whatever proves to be Sinclair’s last, best offer for comment and replies.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit against an AT&T-Time Warner merger that many had expected to have trouble getting approval just wrapped up the argument phase, with the judge now mulling whether the combination is a sufficient threat to competition to justify blocking it, as the Trump administration has attempted to do.

Now joining the queue will be Sprint-T-Mobile. Key to that deal is whether regulators see the combination of the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless companies as reducing competition to the detriment of consumers, or as creating a stronger No. 3 “un-carrier” to the dominant ex-Bells, Verizon and AT&T.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.