FCC grants Tribune Co. waiver from ownership rules

As it had previously hinted it would do, the FCC has allowed Tribune Company, owners of the Los Angeles Times and CW Network affiliate KTLA-TV, to transfer ownership of its newspaper/TV station holdings in five markets to a new owner. This will clear the way for Tribune Co. to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by relinquishing control of the company to its largest lenders; including JPMorgan Chase and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

The FCC is expected to loosen the current newspaper-broadcast crossownership prohibition for any media company in the nation’s 20 largest markets (possibly as soon as its Nov. 30 meeting), so whomever decides to purchase Tribune Company would not have to apply for additional waivers in four of the markets where Tribune owns media properties (including Los Angeles to continue holding the combined media properties for more than a year).

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is also recommending that the agency eliminate altogether the prohibition barring common ownership of a radio station and daily newspaper in the same market.

In connection with the Tribune ruling, the Commission also approved a permanent waiver for the new company to continue owning WGN-TV (CW affiliate) and the Tribune newspaper in the company’s hometown of Chicago.

Eddy Hartenstein, Tribune's outgoing CEO, said the company is “extremely pleased” with the FCC’s decision to grant a waiver from the current media ownership rules that prevent such monopolistic ownerships of newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same market.

“This decision will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks,” Hartenstein said.

The Chicago-based Tribune owns 23 TV stations across the U.S. and has been caught up in bankruptcy proceedings for almost four years, following real-estate baron Sam Zell’s borrowing of billions of dollars to take the company private in 2007.