FCC Opens Investigation into Sinclair-Tribune Deal

WASHINGTON—Even though the proposed Sinclair-Tribune deal was eventually abandoned, the FCC’s Media Bureau has issued a letter of inquiry to David Gibber, senior vice president and general counsel of Sinclair Broadcast Group, explaining that the commission has opened an investigation into Sinclair on whether it misrepresented or provided a lack of candor about who would be controlling a group of stations that would have been spun off as part of the Tribune deal.

The initial deal fell through after the FCC set a hearing on it in front of the commission’s Administrative Law Judge on these accusations of misrepresentation. The hearing was cancelled as a result, but the ALJ Jane Harpin said the allegation warranted a closer look, which the Media Bureau is no supplying.

The investigation will look into “whether, in light of the issues presented in the HDO [Hearing Designation Order], Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. (Sinclair or Company) was the real party-in-interest to the associated WGN-TV, KDAF and KIAGH applications, and, if so, whether Sinclair engaged in misrepresentation and/or lack of candor in its applications with the Commission,” the LOI reads.

The FCC is now ordering that Sinclair deliver the deal-related documents to the Media Bureau by July 9. The LOI stresses that failure to “respond accurately and completely” can result in a fine or imprisonment.

Other issues raised in the original HDO were dismissed as “moot.”

Speaking on the proposed Sinclair-Tribune deal last year, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said: “Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune transaction. The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain stations 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.”