While the Justice Department signed off on the deal last month with TV station spin-offs in 13 markets, the FCC has yet to complete its public interest review of the merger.
While justice only deals with antitrust, the FCC looks at both competition and what the public interest benefits of allowing the merger would be, since broadcasters are licensed to serve that interest.
Currently, the deal is on day 192 of the FCC's informal 180-day shot clock. An FCC spokesperson had no comment on the timing of the FCC's decision.
That 180-day shot clock not an official deadline, and the FCC has occasionally gone far past it, as it did in the Nexstar-Media General merger, when it took 329 days to sign off. But in its most recent quarterly statement, Nexstar signaled to investors it was still expecting it to close in the third quarter, which would give the FCC 'til the end of next month to make that happen.
On Nov. 30 of last year, Nexstar struck a deal to buy Tribune stations for $7.1 billion. The merger has been approved by both boards, and by Justice conditioned on station spin-offs. As of the end of June, Nexstar was telling the FEC it expected the deal to close in the third quarter, so there are still five weeks or so to meet that projection.
The Tribune stations became available after the FCC designated Sinclair's attempt to buy them for hearing by an FCC judge, citing concerns about whether Sinclair had misrepresented the deal to the FCC.
Justice, in announcing its settlement with the companies, praised their "commitment to engage in good faith settlement talks from the outset of our investigation."
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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.