NAB Expresses Concerns About FCC’s Much Delayed Review of Tegna Deal

(Image credit: NAB)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Speaking at the NAB State Leadership Conference, NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt expressed major concerns with the implications of the FCC’s decision to refer the Standard General-Tegna merger to the agency’s administrative law judge (opens in new tab) and the lengthy review process by the FCC that has delayed the deal, which was first proposed over one year ago.

"NAB is alarmed by the FCC Media Bureau’s decision to designate for hearing the Standard General-TEGNA merger after a needlessly prolonged process and on the basis of issues outside the Commission’s purview,” LeGeyt said. 

"While NAB takes no position on the merits of the transaction, nothing about the hearing designation required substantially exceeding the FCC's self-imposed 180-day shot clock,” LeGeyt continued. “The long delay, and now hearing designation, will likely lead to job losses and other damaging cost-cutting measures by the local stations involved to account for the extreme expense of managing the FCC's unwieldy process.

"The Media Bureau's actions renew serious concerns with the Commission's role in reviewing transactions,” he also said. “It is clear the Commission's shot clock is an illusion, and NAB urges Congress to consider codifying it in law rather than relying on the FCC's current voluntary commitment. Further, it is inappropriate for the bureau staff, without the input of the commissioners, to designate a major transaction for hearing. This process deprives the commissioners, who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the opportunity to participate in decisions of this magnitude, and leaves the parties to the transaction with no practical legal recourse.”

"Finally, it is time for Congress to define the 'public interest' for the purpose of FCC merger review,” he concluded. “Rather than simply ensure that a given transaction complies with the FCC's rules – and thus would presumably be in the public interest – the current standard has been interpreted to permit the Commission to extract ad hoc concessions whether or not they fall within the FCC's expertise or mandate."

The FCC referred certain questions to an administrative law judge on Feb. 24, a ruling that drew sharp criticism from Standard General. (opens in new tab)

“A decision delayed is a decision denied,” Standard General’s managing partner Soo Kim said on Feb. 27. “Our proposed transaction is consistent with all FCC regulations and precedent. It is bolstered by a voluntary commitment to invest in local news, preserve newsroom jobs, and address purported concerns related to consumer pricing. But rather than rule on the transaction’s merits, as the law requires, the Media Bureau is attempting to scuttle the deal by ordering a wholly unnecessary hearing process that if left standing by the Commission, would kill the deal.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.