Unions Oppose Standard General-Tegna Review Petition

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)

Labor unions that opposed the Standard General-Tegna merger have told the FCC that it should not review a Media Bureau decision to refer the deal to an administrative law judge over agency questions about the deal's impact on retransmission consent and localism.

That came in a petition filed Thursday (March 9) by NABET-CWA and The NewsGuild, which oppose the merger. The petition opposes the application for full commission review, in which Standard General and Tegna argued that delaying an FCC decision on their deal via the ALJ hearing would essentially kill it.

The merger agreement has a May 22 deadline, with no ability to extend that deadline, the companies have told the FCC, saying that the hearing designation is tantamount to a lack of due process, which raises a constitutional issue.

Their application for full commission review also questions the reasons the FCC cited for not being able to conclude the deal was in the public interest absent that ALJ hearing.

Such hearings are traditionally seen as a way for the FCC to kill a deal, or at least prompt the parties to kill it themselves.

In the unions’ petition opposing the review, CWA et al. said that the FCC is guided by the public-interest standard, not whether private parties have financing issues, issues the agency is under no obligation to accommodate.

The reason the deal is going to a hearing, CWA argued, as well as the reason that the deal can't be completed by May 22, is that it is a “uniquely complicated’ series of transactions for which the merger partners failed to provide documentation sufficient to support the grant of their application.

That is a reference to the FCC’s multiple requests for additional information. CWA dismisses the constitutional issue as outside of the certification argument, adding that the argument was not plausible, much less convincing.

The FCC has spent most of a year reviewing the deal, currently on day 309 of its informal 180-day shot clock.

Standard General agreed to acquire Tegna in an $8.6 billion deal that includes the assumption of $3.2 billion in debt. Apollo Global Management (AGM) is providing some of the funding for the deal. AGM controls Cox Media Group, which will own some of the Tegna stations if the deal is approved.

Petitions to deny were filed by The NewsGuild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET)-CWA. ■

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.