FCC Administrative Judge Suspends Hearing on Tegna Deal
Presiding judge suspended hearing because process would go beyond the May 22 deadline for the deal to be approved
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The FCC administrative judge overseeing the review of Standard General’s proposed acquisition of Tegna has decided to suspend the proceeding because the review would likely continue past the May 22 deadline for completing the deal.
The acquisition was first proposed over a year ago and the financial agreements needed to fund it require that the deal be completed by May 22. Given economic changes in the last year that increased interest rates and made borrowing more difficult, Standard General has said that delays past May 22 would kill the deal.
“Rather than require Applicants, Petitioners, the Enforcement Bureau, and the Office of Administrative Law Judges to spend time and resources in furtherance of this hearing proceeding when the underlying transactions might not survive past May 22, 2023, the Presiding Judge determined it best to hold this proceeding in abeyance until sometime after that date has passed,” the order suspending the hearing stated.
In response to the ruling, Standard General issued a statement saying: “As we have said for months, the FCC Media Bureau’s decision to designate the applications for hearing was a deliberate move to kill the transaction rather than to assist in making a decision. At any point between now and May 22nd, the FCC has the ability to override the Media Bureau’s deeply flawed Hearing Designation Order and bring this deal to a vote. We urge the FCC to listen to the countless bipartisan voices calling for a vote and fair treatment of the applicants.”
In filings with the administrative law judge, Standard General had argued for a shortened period of discovery and review given the massive amount of documentation that the FCC review had already produced.
The News Guild-CWA/National Association of Broadcast Employees and Engineers-CWA, United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry, and Common Cause Educational Fund as well as the Enforcement Bureau, sought a six-month discovery period followed by six months of pre-hearing motions and other submissions, the ruling noted. Petitioners and the Enforcement Bureau suggested that six months is a reasonable period of discovery for a complicated transaction that allows time for them to review the existing documentation and determine what additional discovery might be required, including interrogatories, document requests, and depositions.
In the order Jane Hinckley Halprin, administrative law judge, ruled that “at least some discovery is necessary. Those tasks, and other pre-hearing matters that are likely to arise, will take the duration of this hearing beyond the May 22, 2023, deadline that Applicants deem necessary to preserve their merger arrangement.”
The judge instructed Applicants to file a status report on or before June 1, 2023, to update the record and report on the continued viability of their merger arrangement on or before June 1, 2023.
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.