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FCC OKs Tribune transfer of control

The FCC authorized the transfer of control of Tribune Company Nov. 30 from the existing shareholders to Sam Zell, The Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan and EGI-TRB.

Tribune requested indefinite waivers of the existing newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership (NBCO) rule in several markets. Although the commission’s order denies this request, it grants time-limited waivers for these markets. The commission has previously said that it would no longer grant indefinite waivers.

In granting time-limited waivers, it concluded that it is not appropriate to require divestiture while litigation is ongoing. Currently, the commission is considering a proposal to alter the NBCO rule. The existing rule has been the subject of extensive litigation. The commission noted Tribune can challenge the denial in court.

The order grants Tribune waivers for two years or for six months after the end of litigation, whichever is longer.

If a new NBCO rule is adopted before January 1, 2008, the order grants Tribune two years to come into compliance with the new rule in the New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Hartford, CT, markets.

The order also grants a permanent waiver of the NBCO rule in the Chicago market. In that market, the combination of the Chicago Tribune, WGN-AM, and WGN-TV dates back decades, long before the existence of the NBCO rule, and was grandfathered when the rule was originally adopted.

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