According to a source familiar with the item, the FCC's Media Bureau has circulated a draft order approving the Tribune/Local TV deal.
As with the Gannett/Belo approval draft order, the bureau has given the commissioners a heads up that it will be approved within 48 hours on the bureau's own authority.
They are not expected to have any objections, although the approval will not please the many petitioners who asked the FCC to block the deal over its spin-offs and shared services agreements.
Tribune is buying 16 full power TV stations, but spinning off three of Local TV's 19 stations to comply with the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban (WTKR-TV and WGNT-TV Norfolk/Portsmouth/Newport News, Va. and WNEP-TV Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazelton, Pa.). The stations are being spun off to Dreamcatcher, which is run by former Tribune Broadcasting president Ed Wilson, with Tribune providing various services -- technical, back office, distribution help and a contingent right to provide some programming -- through shared services agreements. Tribune would not provide any ad sales services.
According to a source, the FCC is approving both the overarching deal and the spin-offs to Dreamcatcher. It also talks about the UHF discount, reminding the parties that they may have to adjust the deal depending on how the commission decides that item. The FCC has approved a proposal to eliminate the discount, which would put the Tribune over the 39% national ownership cap even with the spin-offs, but has not voted on the final order. It has proposed grandfathering the Tribune deal and others struck before the late September vote on the proposal, so the deal would not need adjusting if it follows through on that, as it is expected to.
According to sources, there are no signs yet of FCC decisions on Sinclair/Allbritton and Media General/Young Broadcasting, and none are expected before the end of the year.
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