NCTA: Sinclair's Detail-less Deal Reply Doesn't Cut It

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, has told the FCC that Sinclair's response to the commission's request for more information on how it would comply with its rules in the Tribune merger was insufficient and that without that added info the deal must be denied.

That came in comments to the FCC filed Nov. 2.

"Unless and until Sinclair presents a definitive plan for complying with the rules and the public has had an adequate opportunity to review and comment on that plan," NCTA said, "the Commission cannot approve this transaction and should immediately cease conducting its review."

Sinclair suggested to analysts in an earnings call this week that it may do some station swaps rather than divestitures in some markets, and that it was premature to talk about divesting any stations.

NCTA says that the FCC can't properly vet the deal until Sinclair says exactly how it will comply with the existing rules, not as they might be modified in the proposed media ownership deregulation item, though that deregulation is expected to be voted on and approved at the FCC's Nov. 16 meeting.

"Sinclair should be required to show that it will comply with existing ownership rules without surreptitiously divesting stations to sidecars that they manage and control in all respects except on paper, or by carrying multiple “top four” affiliate signals on the same broadcast station as multicast signals," NCTA said.

If the FCC does approve the ownership rule changes, which would allow for smaller market duopolies and, at least potentially, owning two of the top four-rated stations in a market, and Sinclair amends the application to reflect that, NCTA also says that is the kind of substantial change that should prompt the FCC to re-notice the application, seek comment, and start a new shot clock. "Anything less would be a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and the Commission’s public interest standard," NCTA said.

In in earlier comments, the FCC said Sinclair needed to provide more details, something the FCC also asked for.

The FCC's informal clock on the deal is at day 104, having restarted Nov. 2 after the commission paused it to give commenters, like NCTA, a chance to weigh in on Sinclair's response to the request for those details.

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.