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Trio of State AGs Petition to Block Sinclair-Tribune Deal

The attorneys general of Illinois, Iowa (stations from both states are involved in the deal) and Rhode Island have petitioned the FCC to deny the Sinclair-Tribune merger, which would give Sinclair over 200 TV stations.

Sinclair announced the $3.9 billion deal in May 2017.

Pointing out that they are the chief consumer protection and law enforcement officers in their state, the AGs argue that since Sinclair is already the largest local news provider in the country, allowing it to get much bigger will impede the ability of struggling stations to create more opportunities for diversity, localism or competition.

Related: Demand Progress Calls for Flood of Oppositions to Sinclair-Tribune

Sinclair is spinning some stations off, but also striking sidecar deals with some of them. It also wants to keep two of the top four stations in two markets per new FCC rules that allow those previously prohibited combos to be granted on a case-by-case basis.

That is not good enough for the trio of AGs.

"The Commission should grant this Petition to Deny despite the divestiture plan because Applicants’ divestiture plan is indefinite, does not demonstrate that the divested stations will not be controlled by Sinclair, and withholds the answers to key questions of control of the divested stations from the public and from the Commission."

In particular, they are concerned about Sinclair's effort to keep two stations in St. Louis, which they say should not be allowed. 

The FCC is collecting comments on the deal through July 12, after which it is expected to restart its 180-day informal deal clock, which has been stopped on day 167 since January, though it has been before the FCC for a year now.

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.