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Take Two: Sinclair to Resubmit/Amend Tribune Deal

Sinclair will be resubmitting or amending portions of the Tribune deal after conversations requested by FCC staffers.

That is according to an ex parte filing by Sinclair attorneys at the FCC.

According to the document, FCC staffers requested a conference all with the attorneys for Sinclair and Tribune.

"Participants discussed FCC policies and procedures applicable to applications filed in connection with the proceeding," said Sinclair Counsel Miles Mason in the filing. "The parties advised the FCC staff that they would resubmit or amend certain of those applications accordingly," he said.

Sinclair last week resubmitted its $3.9 billion deal to acquire Tribune’s stations to the FCC, even as it continued to negotiate some of the proposed station spinoffs with the Justice Department, adjusted to reflect the media deregulation it pushed for. The original deal, proposed in May of 2017, would have given Sinclair control of Tribune’s 42 stations, in addition to the 193 stations Sinclair already owns or operates, with some tweaking necessary under old and new FCC rules.

Sinclair’s filing last week signaled that the deal will not be closing in the near-term, given that the DOJ is still vetting it and the FCC will now have to put the new deal out for public comment and consider that feedback before it decides.

The FCC last month paused its review of the deal, and its informal 180-day shot clock, in anticipation of the refiled transaction. The clock has yet to restart, which won't happen now until the FCC vets Sinclair's latest amendment.

The letter did not say when Sinclair would be refiling.

Sinclair wants to own two of the top four stations in three of its markets, something that would have been off limits before the FCC’s deregulation took effect earlier this month. That was one of the reasons for Sinclair's new FCC filing last week.

Related: Coalition Tells FCC to Keep Shot Clock Stopped

Sinclair also signaled it will spin off Tribune’s WPIX New York and WGN Chicago (as well as KSWB San Diego) to get under the FCC’s ownership cap, which bans a single broadcaster from reaching more than 39% of all U.S. television households. Sinclair, though, wants to continue to provide services to the New York and Chicago stations. Critics have said not owning a station in markets No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, is a way to skirt the ownership rules.

Sinclair has said it will park all the stations that it has signaled it is willing to spin off into a trust, though it may not wind up selling all of them, depending on whether the FCC does any more deregulating--raising the 39% cap, for one notable example--and on which specific stations the Justice Department or FCC might want in other hands.

John Eggerton
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.