FCC Scrutinizing Super Groups

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Cable operators, led by the American Cable Association, continue to get some love from Washington in their efforts to block or condition station group deals that include shared sales/programming/management side arrangements.

The FCC has told Sinclair it must amend its deal to buy the Allbritton TV stations or drop its request to buy stations in three markets—Charleston, Birmingham, and Harrisburg—that involve grandfathered local marketing agreements (LMAs), which it says would violate the FCC’s local ownership rules now that those stations are changing hands.

The news came in a letter to Sinclair from the FCC’s Media Bureau.

The bureau also said Sinclair needed to provide more info on the agreements and explain why not providing it squared with its responsibility to “provide all information necessary to allow for meaningful review of the application in question.”

ACA argues such spinoff deals skirt FCC ownership rules and allow for unfairly coordinated retrans negotiations.

Sinclair did not sound concerned. “That the FCC has raised certain questions about the transaction is normal course in transactions of this type and we expect to be able to address the FCC’s concerns without any material impact on the transaction,” Sinclair said.

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.