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Groups Tell FCC Tegna-Standard General Merger Will ‘Lead to Further Erosion of Local Media’

Tegna
(Image credit: Tegna)

Common Cause this week joined The NewsGuild-CWA, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA, and UCC Media Justice Ministry in telling the FCC that it opposed the proposed merger of Apollo Global Management, Standard General L.P., and Tegna on the grounds that it would erode local news media operations and lead to higher cable TV rates.  

If the $8 billion merger is approved, Standard General would acquire Tegna’s 61 full power television stations and two radio stations across 50 markets. Apollo will control the licenses of 31 full-power television stations in 26 markets and 54 radio stations in 11 radio markets. 

In reply comments filed with the FCC, the groups heavily criticized the transaction, saying that “the Applicants and their anonymous funders located in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands have proposed a complex series of transactions designed to weaken local journalism and jack up cable subscriber fees” by manipulating “so-called after acquired station clauses to jack up retransmission fees for pay-TV operators,” and adding that “grant of their pending applications will do nothing to create a more accurate, diverse or independent media.”

Standard General has defended the merger, announced in February, claiming that it “will yield significant public interest benefits without any countervailing public interest harms” and that the deal would create “the largest minority-owned and female-led television station group in U.S. history and dramatically increasing minority broadcast ownership and viewpoint diversity.”

In a statement released Monday, Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director, said that “Standard General and Apollo have failed to show how this merger is anything more than the continued hijacking of our local newsrooms by hedge funds and private equity firms. If approved, this transaction would lead to the further erosion of local media with more reporter layoffs, consolidated newsrooms and a loss in local news coverage.”

“In their opposition to our petition to deny, Standard General and Apollo attempt to brand themselves as champions of local news. In reality, these corporations have said they will implement a business model that creates a race to the bottom approach, which fails to provide communities with the news and information they need to civically engage and hold government accountable. 

“The transaction also does nothing to advance the FCC’s ownership diversity goals. While the diversity of the business leaders in this merger is laudable, the agency’s goals to increase media ownership opportunities for women and people of color are grounded in creating pathways for multiple owners with multiple viewpoints and backgrounds to enter the marketplace. A single owner controlling a significant amount of stations across the country, producing news far from the communities the stations serve and implementing cost-cutting measures, should not and does not meet the agency’s criteria for promoting media ownership diversity.” 

“Standard General and Apollo have failed to show any positive, transaction-specific public interest benefits from the merger and fail to address the significant public interest harms that would result if the deal is approved. Given the significant harms, the FCC should block this merger.” 

Tom Butts
Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.