FCC Casts Doubt On Sinclair-Tribune Deal

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recommended the proposal be reviewed by an administrative law judge.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has “serious concerns” about a proposed megadeal between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Co., he said Monday.

Rather than sign off on the $3.9 billion deal as proposed, Pai said he’s asked the FCC to submit it for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge ― a potentially lengthy process that could quash Sinclair’s bid entirely.

Pai took particular issue with Sinclair’s plan to divest from some of the stations to meet federal ownership rules, casting doubt on the broadcaster’s ultimate intent. 

“The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law,” he said.

The conservative-leaning broadcast group, already the nation’s largest TV station owner, is seeking to add an additional 42 Tribune stations to its portfolio. If approved, Sinclair would control more than 200 stations across the country, reaching about 59 percent of the U.S. audience, according to its own estimates.

For insight into how that manifests itself in practice, here’s a video from March of local anchors at Sinclair-owned stations that were required to broadcast a Sinclair-approved script: 


This story has been updated with more details about the proposed deal.