Unions Cite Dish-Cox Retrans Flap to Argue Against Tegna Deal

Signage is displayed outside Tegna Inc. headquarters in McLean, Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March, 13, 2020.
(Image credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The NewsGuild-CWA and National Alliance of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians-CWA unions are using a retransmission consent impasse between Dish and Apollo Global Management’s Cox Media Group to argue against the Standard General-Tegna merger at the FCC.

The unions have petitioned to block the deal, and cited a B+C story about the retrans flap for tipping them to satellite TV provider Dish Network’s allegation that Cox Media Group delayed doing a retransmission-consent deal because it wanted to bundle in Standard General and Tegna stations “connected” to Apollo.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently vetting Standard General’s proposed purchase of Tegna stations. Standard General has agreed to acquire Tegna in a deal partially financed by Apollo. If the transaction is approved, CMG would wind up with some of the stations involved as part of the deal.

Cox Media Group said claims made by Dish were false, and that it “never sought to negotiate for stations it did not own.” CMG also said it had sent a “cease and desist” letter to Dish “demanding” that it retract the claim.

Also: Standard General Stations Blacked Out in Dish Dispute

In a letter to the FCC filed late Friday (December 9), the unions told the regulator that Cox’s denial notwithstanding, which they said was insufficiently explicit, there was room within that statement to engage in coordinated pricing.

And even if there was no foot-dragging related to unowned stations or an “unambiguous violation” of FCC regulations, the “incident” demonstrated that “the dubious structure of the proposed transactions [Standard General buying Tegna stations with some spinoffs] is inherently contrary to commission policies.”

The unions reiterated that the structure is sufficiently ”dubious“ such that there is no structural remedy the FCC could impose to make it pass public-interest muster.

The unions filed their petition to dismiss or deny the deal with the FCC back in June  ▪️

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.

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