At press time Monday morning, July 16, the FCC had still not restarted its 180-day shot clock on vetting the Sinclair-Tribune merger proposal. The clock has been stopped since Jan. 4 as Sinclair filed new versions of the deal responsive to FCC deregulatory moves that allow it to potentially own more stations and responsive to Justice Department concerns about control of ad inventory in some markets where it wanted to own two stations.
But the clock was widely expected to restart following the July 12 final comment date on the latest version. The clock has been stuck on day 167 since January, even though the deal has been before the FCC in some form for over a year (it was put out for comment July 6, 2017)--there was a previous stoppage as well.
The clock is informal, and the FCC has blown by it in the past for deals that took far longer than 180 days to be decided, including Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton. But, ostensibly, its restart signals the FCC is back on the clock for coming up with a decision, so at press time the FCC was not on its own clock.
The deal is on another clock of sorts. A federal appeals court is deciding a challenge to the FCC's restoration of the UHF discount, a move that paved the way for the Sinclair-Tribune deal. If that court reverses the FCC--a decision that could come any time--it could blow up the deal.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai has not said he would hold off on a decision until the court makes its decision, though he has been pressed to do so by FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and a host of Hill Dems.
The shot clock on the T-Mobile-Sprint merger proposal had not started at press time, either--the FCC opened the comment docket June 15 but has yet to put the application out for comment.
An FCC spokesperson said that the clock won't start on T-Mobile-Sprint until the FCC has determined that the application has been correctly and completely filed. They had no comment on Sinclair-Tribune.
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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.
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