Standard General Wants Full FCC Vote on Delayed Tegna Acquisition
‘Decision delayed is a decision denied,’ says managing partner Soo Kim
Standard General, whose proposed $8.6 billion acquisition of Tegna has been tied up in a review by the Federal Communications Commission for more than a year, is calling on the full agency to vote on approving the transaction immediately rather than delaying it further.
The FCC’s Media Bureau on Friday designated the deal to be reviewed by an administrative law judge, a process that would delay the potential approval of the deal further. The commission has only four members, divided between Democrats and Republicans, while appointee Gigi Sohn’s nomination is weighing in the Senate, and chair Jessica Rosenworcel has said there is a need for “closer review to ensure that this transaction does not anticompetitively raise prices or put jobs in local newsrooms at risk.” Those factors will make it difficult for the merging companies to obtain an affirmative vote by the full commission.
Standard General said the Media Bureau’s action is tantamount to denying the transaction by initiating a lengthy process that would extend well beyond the transaction’s Final Extension Date of May 22, 2023.
Also: Tegna ‘Evaluating Options’ as FCC Sends Standard General Deal to Judge
“A decision delayed is a decision denied,” Soo Kim, managing partner of Standard General, said. “Our proposed transaction is consistent with all FCC regulations and precedent. It is bolstered by a voluntary commitment to invest in local news, preserve newsroom jobs, and address purported concerns related to consumer pricing. But rather than rule on the transaction’s merits, as the law requires, the Media Bureau is attempting to scuttle the deal by ordering a wholly unnecessary hearing process, that if left standing by the Commission, would kill the deal.”
Also: Tegna Stock Plunges After FCC Sends Standard General Deal to Judge
Standard General noted that the Media Bureau has approved other recent broadcast transactions, even when they required special FCC actions.
The main objections to the deal, as made by unions and cable companies, are that it would raise prices for consumers and result in newsroom layoffs.
Standard General has pledged to renew retransmission-consent deals at their current rates and promised not to fire news staffers. It has also gotten support from numerous civil-rights organizations, legislators and labor and minority media groups.
“The unavoidable implication is that this particular transaction may be scuttled not due to substantive or evidence-based concerns, but rather by the Media Bureau’s unexplained view that Standard General simply should not be allowed to own these television stations and that any future applicant to acquire Tegna or any other TV station group must meet the test of being acceptable to the Media Bureau in its sole, absolute and unreviewable discretion," Kim said. “This precedent, if allowed to stand unchallenged, will turn the ‘Public Interest’ standard on its head by restricting investment in and ownership of wide swaths of the economy to those deemed acceptable by regulators.” ■
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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.