Republicans Push for IG Investigation Into FCC Handling of Tegna Deal

Tegna building in McLean, Virginia
Tegna’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia. (Image credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Republican leadership of the House and Senate committees overseeing the Federal Communications Commission has called on the regulator’s acting Inspector General, Sharon Diskin, to look into FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s handling of the review of the Standard General-Tegna merger.

In a letter to Diskin Friday (May 16), House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) intimated that the designation of the deal for a hearing before the FCC's administrative law judge last February was "motivated by a biased desire to block the deal."

Also Read: Standard General Tries to Force Tegna Decision

If so, they said, the commission was being used as a “partisan cudgel.”

Both legislators are already on the record as taking issue with the hearing designation, which pushes review of the deal past a May 22 deadline for securing financing. In the past, similar designations have spelled doom for deals. Critics of this designation point out that the fact that it came from the Media Bureau rather than a vote by the commission is pretty much unprecedented.

Almost certainly a commission vote would not have resulted in a hearing since the FCC is currently at a political 2-2 tie. The FCC’s Republican commissioners, Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington, were not supportive of the Media Bureau decision.

Rosenworcel has said that the reason the deal was designated for hearing was that it needed a “closer review” to “ensure that this transaction does not anti-competitively raise prices or put jobs in local newsrooms at risk.”  Standard General has said it will do neither and has made promises to that effect.

Standard General agreed to acquire Tegna in an $8.6 billion deal that includes the assumption of $3.2 billion in debt. Apollo Global Management (AGM) is providing some of the funding for the deal. AGM controls Cox Media Group, which will own some of the Tegna stations if the deal is approved.

Petitions to deny were filed by The NewsGuild-CWA, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET)-CWA, Common Cause, the United Church of Christ, and Graham Media Holdings.

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.