Sinclair: Tribune Merger Won't Affect Repack Timing

Sinclair's VP of engineering, Harvey Arnold, said critics of its proposed deal to purchase Tribune stations are just wrong when they suggest the company would use its new size--over 200 stations--to delay the repack of TV stations. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he said in a blog post, adding that the move would be a suicidal act, and the suggestion "nonsense."

T-Mobile, for example, told the FCC that the combination of Sinclair and Tribune "will provide New Sinclair with multiple means to thwart the repacking process in practically every region of the country." T-Mobile was the top bidder in the broadcast incentive auction. In comments to the FCC on the proposed merger, the wireless provider said that the transaction "poses significant risks to the success of the post incentive auction repack."

The FCC has divided the post-incentive auction repacking of stations into smaller spectrum space into 10 phases, and Arnold said the company is on schedule to meet all the deadlines for its 98 stations having to move.

Related: Sinclair/Tribune Foes Remain Unmoved

He said it has submitted orders for its first 20 high-power antennas, wideband auxiliary antennas and transmission lines and are waiting for the FCC to sign off on associated power maximization and antenna patterns.

"While we can’t and don’t speak for Tribune today, we understand that their engineers are working just as diligently as we are to meet their Phase Completion Dates," he wrote, saying the company has neither the incentive nor ability to slow the repack and that the Tribune deal has no effect on the timing of the repack. "So 'delaying the repack' means, as a practical matter, the pointless and, indeed, suicidal act of losing our audience, advertisers, and other revenue streams. To what end?  None of our opponents have articulated a cogent rationale as to why we would slow down the repack. Because there isn’t one."

Related: Newsmax’s Ruddy: Sinclair/Tribune Combo Is Dangerous Proposition

While some critics have pointed to Sinclair's ownership of antenna manufacturer Dielectric as a negative, Arnold said it makes no sense to suggest Sinclair would use its ownership position not to sell broadcasters its antennas.

Arnold called the repack delay argument by critics nonsense from those companies that "couldn't care less about the future of broadcasting."

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.