NAB ‘Alarmed’ by Delays in Tegna-Standard General Deal Review
‘Public interest’ needs better definition
Curtis LeGeyt, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, expressed alarm at the “needlessly prolonged” regulatory review of Standard General’s proposed acquisition of Tegna.
After more than a year, the FCC’s Media Bureau referred the transaction to an administrative law judge, a move that will delay potential approval of the deal and possibly kill it.
The news sent Tegna's stock plunging on Monday.
"NAB is alarmed by the FCC Media Bureau’s decision to designate for hearing the Standard General-TEGNA merger after a needlessly prolonged process and on the basis of issues outside the Commission’s purview,” LeGeyt said in a statement.
Also: Standard General Wants Full FCC Vote on Delayed Tegna Acquisition
“While NAB takes no position on the merits of the transaction, nothing about the hearing designation required substantially exceeding the FCC’s self-imposed 180-day shot clock. The long delay, and now hearing designation, will likely lead to job losses and other damaging cost-cutting measures by the local stations involved to account for the extreme expense of managing the FCC's unwieldy process,” he said.
LeGeyt said the way the Standard General-Tegna review is playing out raises questions about the FCC’s role in reviewing transactions.
“It is clear the Commission’s shot clock is an illusion, and NAB urges Congress to consider codifying it in law rather than relying on the FCC's current voluntary commitment,” he said. “ Further, it is inappropriate for the bureau staff, without the input of the commissioners, to designate a major transaction for hearing. This process deprives the commissioners, who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the opportunity to participate in decisions of this magnitude, and leaves the parties to the transaction with no practical legal recourse.”
LeGeyt also said the FCC’s public interest standard needs to be better defined.
“It is time for Congress to define the 'public interest' for the purpose of FCC merger review. Rather than simply ensure that a given transaction complies with the FCC's rules — and thus would presumably be in the public interest — the current standard has been interpreted to permit the Commission to extract ad hoc concessions whether or not they fall within the FCC's expertise or mandate,” he said. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.