FCC Seeks Staffing Info on Standard General-Tegna

Standard General leaders Soo Kim and Deb McDermott.
Standard General CEO Soo Kim and Standard Media CEO Deb McDermott (Image credit: Standard General)

The Federal Communications Commission has asked Tegna and Standard General for yet more documents, with a particular focus on any potential layoffs or impact on retransmission-consent negotiations related to their proposed merger, in the process suggesting the commission won’t decide whether or not to allow the companies to merge until late October at the earliest.

Tegna, which owns 64 TV stations in 51 U.S. markets, agreed to be acquired by Standard General back in February for $8.6 billion including debt. It also owns multicast networks True Crime Network, Twist and Quest, as well as advanced advertising company Premion.

In June, the FCC asked for more info from the companies on that deal following pushback from critics who said it would lead to layoffs. This week, the agency’s Media Bureau followed up with a letter seeking even more, giving the companies until October 13 to respond, or alternately, until another date the Media Bureau will agree to.

The NewsGuild-CWA, which formally opposed the merger in a petition to deny, earlier this week told the FCC in meetings that the commission needed to collect more info on potential staffing issues.

The FCC's decision to ask for that additional information came not long after.

Also: FCC Gives Tegna Commenters More Time

The FCC will then have to vet that new information, so, as the bureau put it, it can “review the applications and make the necessary public-interest finding.” The commission looks beyond competition issues to determine whether a merger of broadcast license holders serves the public interest.

Among the documents the FCC wants are “all analyses and documents relating to projected future capital expenditures, personnel headcounts and programming plans for each of the broadcast stations included in the Applications,” as well as a description of “how a Washington, D.C. newsroom will be integrated with local stations and the extent of local station editorial control over resulting news coverage; provide all documents relating to any such proposed integration,” and “all documents concerning any actual or potential consolidation of news operations or services, including impacts on personnel headcounts.”

The FCC also wants “all correspondence from [Standard Media CEO] Deborah McDermott or other Standard General executives to Tegna employees addressing how the proposed transaction may affect staffing or conditions of employment.”

“Standard General, who will be the sole owner of Tegna, has consistently confirmed that its plans for post-closing Tegna do not involve station-level layoffs,” Standard General said in a statement.

Critics of the deal, including cable operators, have argued that the merger will allow the company to gang up on MVPDs at retransmission consent time and the FCC said it wants "All analyses and documents relating to Standard General’s review of the CMG [Cox Media Group] retransmission agreements currently in place, including calculations of post-transaction rate increases, or, alternatively, a statement that Standard General has not reviewed such agreements."

Last, the NCTA: The Internet & Television Association told the FCC that if it does approve the deal, it needs to adopt binding conditions that make sure that the newly companioned company does not leverage that new muscle to engage in impermissible joint retrans negotiations. NCTA cited the “web of interlocking interests” involved in the deal, which includes station spinoffs to a funder of the transaction, Apollo Global Management.

“We just wish to be treated like everybody else,” Deb McDermott, currently Standard Media Group CEO and who will be the CEO of Tegna if the deal goes through, said.

The FCC is currently on day 162 of its informal 180-day shot clock on vetting the proposed merger. ■

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.