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FCC Media Bureau denies requested extension in Sinclair/Tribune deal review

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FCC Media Bureau denies requested extension in Sinclair/Tribune deal review

The Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau has denied a request for more time in the commission's review of Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s proposed purchase of Tribune Media Co.

DISH Network Corp., the American Cable Association and the public interest group Public Knowledge filed a joint motion asking for additional information from the merging companies about the deal, as well as a request for an extension in time. Specifically, the three groups said Sinclair and Tribune had failed to quantify the public interest benefits that would result from the proposed transaction. Additionally, the groups said the broadcasters had not clarified how they would avoid violations of the commission's television ownership rules, nor had Sinclair or Tribune addressed retransmission consent issues raised by the deal.

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Federal Communications Commission
Source: Associated Press

On Aug. 3, the Media Bureau denied the motion, arguing that if the groups believe that Sinclair's and Tribune's applications are substantially incomplete, the proper procedure is for them to file a petition to deny on those grounds. Further, the bureau said DISH, the cable association and Public Knowledge "do not need access to the wide-ranging and highly confidential information" requested in order to file a petition to deny.

Under the timeline established by the Media Bureau in July, interested parties must file petitions to deny no later than Aug. 7, and any oppositions to petitions to deny must be filed no later than Aug. 22. Replies to those oppositions must be filed by Aug. 29.

The Media Bureau's decision comes one day after the U.S. Department of Justice sent a request to Sinclair and Tribune asking for additional information in connection with the deal. Importantly, the request extends the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act until 30 days after both companies have provided the requested information, unless the waiting period is terminated earlier by the Justice Department or the parties voluntarily extend the time for closing.

Sinclair in May agreed to buy Tribune for $43.50 per share, constituting a total purchase price of about $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of about $2.7 billion in net debt. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.