FCC's Sinclair-Tribune Shot Clock Remains on Pause

WASHINGTON—The FCC has yet to restart its informal shot clock on reviewing the proposed $3.9 billion merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media.

Sinclair submitted its revised deal to the FCC last Friday (Feb. 23), a revision responsive to spin-offs sought by the Justice Department and the FCC's November deregulatory moves, but as of Tuesday (Feb. 27), the FCC had not turned its shot clock (now red and stopped on day 167) to green.

An FCC source speaking on background said staffers were still processing the updated information.

[Sinclair is Divesting WGN, WPIX, But...]

The FCC signaled back when it stopped the clock Jan. 4 that it would not restart "until after the referenced amendments and divestiture applications have been filed and staff has had an opportunity to fully review them."

The clock will probably also not start until the FCC is ready to put the new deal out for public comment and set the deadlines for those comments and reply comments.

That new comment cycle will likely draw more pushback from deal critics trying to get either the FCC or Justice to block the deal, and who want that merger clock to stay on red.

The Coalition to Save Local Media, which comprises a host of deal critics, from the American Cable Association and Dish Network to Common Cause and NABET-CWA, last week said of the new deal: “These filings should prompt even more scrutiny by the FCC, Department of Justice, Congress and other parties on this proposed mega-merger. The FCC shot clock should remain stopped until Sinclair proposes a credible plan for how it plans to comply with the broadcast ownership rules. When this plan is ultimately produced, there should be meaningful time for review and public comment.

[FCC IG Agreed to Investigate Pai Handling of Sinclair-Tribune]

The FCC has twice stopped the clock on the deal, which was filed with the commission last spring.

This story originally appeared on TVT's sister publication B&C.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio WorldTV TechTV FaxThis Week in Consumer ElectronicsVariety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.