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Groups Say Tegna Deal Will 'Jack Up' Cable Prices

Tegna headquarters in McLean, Va.
(Image credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Common Cause, news and broadcast unions and UCC Media Justice, Which petitioned the FCC to deny the Standard General-Tegna merger, told the FCC Tuesday (Aug. 2)  just what it thought of the those merging parties' defense of the deal, including that the petitioners had no legal right to challenge it.

Standard General and Tegna are technically the merging parties, but Apollo Global Management, which controls Cox Media Group, is providing financing and getting some TV stations in an associated swap to keep the merged company within FCC's local ownership rules.  In fact, in its comments, Common Cause identified the deal as the "Proposed Apollo Global Management-Standard General-Tegna Merger."

In their comments, the groups minced no words. "The Applicants and their anonymous funders located in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands have proposed a complex series of transactions designed to weaken local journalism and jack up cable subscriber fees," they said. "Grant of their pending applications will do nothing to create a more accurate, diverse or independent media." 

They argued the deal's complexity was "an otherwise meaningless sequencing of the license transfers for the sole purpose of allowing Standard General to escalate its charges for MVPD and vMVPD program carriage," which is not in the public interest because the increased fees are "almost invariably passed on to customers."

They also fired back at Tegna and Standard General's suggestion that the petitioners did not have standing. "In arguing that hardworking people in the journalism industries and civil rights and democracy activists have no right to participate in FCC proceedings, the Applicants do not even recognize, much less discuss, established legal principles giving labor unions and voters’ organizations standing to challenge each of the proposed station sales to protect their institutional interests throughout the country."

Also: NewsGuild-DWA Calls on Biden to Block Tegna Deal

Tegna and Apollo have argued that the deal, valued at about $8.6 billion, is in the public interest and will allow for improved local TV-station service, including by boosting, not kneecapping, local news, creating "the country’s largest minority-owned and female-led TV broadcasting company in U.S. history."

Tegna owns 64 television stations in 51 U.S. markets. It also owns multicast networks True Crime Network, Twist and Quest and advanced-advertising company Premion.

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.