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Coalition Tells FCC to Keep Sinclair-Tribune Clock Stopped

Opponents of the Sinclair-Tribune merger don't want the FCC to restart its 180-day transaction shot clock until Sinclair better lays out just how it will comply with ownership rules.

That came in a letter to the FCC Thursday (March 1).

The FCC stopped the clock in January awaiting Sinclair's adjustment of the deal given the FCC's local ownership rule dereg. That new deal included efforts to own two of the four stations in a market, which is now allowable on a case-by-case basis, and signaled that it was parking spin-off stations in a trust, and striking services agreements with some, all as a way to keep its options open, including if the FCC lifts the 39% cap on national audience.

Related: FCC's Sinclair-Tribune Shot Clock on Pause

That adjusted deal did not sit any better with the Coalition to Save Local Media. Members signing on to the letter included AWE: A Wealth of Entertainment channel, Cinemoi, Common Cause, Competitive Carriers Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Indivisible– Herndon & Reston, International Cinematographers Guild, ITTA, Latino Victory Project, NABET-CWA, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, OANN- One America News Network, Public Knowledge, RIDE TV, and the Sports Fans Coalition.

“Sinclair purports to provide a detailed plan for divestiture of stations, but the 'plan' is an empty vessel. Sinclair says it is applying for authority to place 23 stations in 10 markets into a divestiture trust," the coalition said. "However, buried in a footnote, Sinclair acknowledges that this is not a definitive list of what will actually get divested, but rather a placeholder list subject to further changes. Sinclair does not explain, nor could it, how this gives Commission staff a ‘full and complete record’ on which to decide the application."

The FCC won't be re-starting the clock until it puts the deal out for comment, but the coalition wants it to hold off on a new deal, one Sinclair is unlikely to offer up. The clock is informal anyway, and has been honored in the breach as well as the observance, including taking most of a year (327 days of clock time) to approve the Sinclair-Allbritton station deal. The Sinclair deal is on day 167, but the clock has stopped twice.

John Eggerton
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.