Standard General Turns Up Heat on FCC as Deadline for Merger Approval Nears

(Image credit: Tegna)

NEW YORK—Standard General is ramping up criticism of the FCC’s inaction over its pending $8.6B takeover of TEGNA. The commission has until May 22 to vote on the deal, which was first announced more than a year ago. 

Standard General claims that if approved, the deal would be historic, resulting in a 300% expansion of media ownership (Standard General CEO Soo Kim is Korean-American), but opponents, including civil rights groups, unions and media critics have claimed that the merger would result in more consolidation and further threaten local journalism.

Standard General says that the commission is trying “to backroom-kill the deal by tying it up in red tape” until financing expires May 22, and today cited support of the deal from a number of prominent D.C. insiders.

On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez became the first Senate Democrat to publicly demand a vote in a Wednesday floor speech, and stated that he would not support nominees if they refused to take action to support diversity. 

“We need the FCC Commissioners to commit to increasing diversity in media ownership, not just in words but in actions,” he said. “I for one will not support nominees for the FCC if they are unwilling to support diversity - including by acting in a way that denies a vote to a diverse applicant.”

Standard General also cited an editorial in the The NY Post warning that Menendez’ opposition could pose a threat to Democratic control of the FCC with Commissioner Geoffrey Starks’ term expiring this year.

FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington also issued a statement this week demanding a vote from the FCC on the Standard General-TEGNA deal. Commissioners Carr and Simington issued a statement to Politico Pro:

“The FCC owes America’s entrepreneurs, its innovators, and the everyday people they serve a regulatory process that is fair, transparent, and evenly applied," Carr and Simington said in a joint statement. "The agency is falling short of that here, as we made clear the moment the FCC opted to designate this matter for hearing, rather than providing the parties with an up or down vote.”

“Instead of correcting course, the agency compounds that error today," they added, calling for a "long-overdue vote on the merits."

Standard General also noted that several major civil rights organizations also criticized the FCC this week as the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Action Network, National Urban League, & UnidosUS released a joint statement demanding a vote. In their statement, they said the deal ”will create the largest minority-owned and female-led broadcasting company in U.S. history and increase minority media ownership by 300%.” They also noted the FCC hasn’t provided “fair and equal treatment” to Standard General.

Former Biden and FCC officials also weighed in this week, criticizing the FCC for its inaction. Former Senior Advisor to President Biden and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, called out the FCC for its hypocrisy when it comes to their stated goal of increasing diversity in media ownership. 

Richmond called the Standard General-TEGNA deal a “golden opportunity to empower minority voices ” and added that “if we don’t own it and you don’t have diversity in ownership, then you are at the whim of what others say.”  And former Democratic FCC Chief of Staff Adonis Hoffman called the choices by the FCC, “a travesty” and added that while the FCC “have consistently given lip-service to media ownership diversity, their actions speak louder than words.”

Finally, late on Thursday, the National Association of Broadcasters sounded the alarm on behalf of local journalism in light of the FCC’s action. In a blog post, the Association’s CEO said the FCC’s behavior would raise “serious concerns about the future of ALL broadcast transactions.” 

The NAB, which never weighs in for or against any potential deals accdording to Standard General, called out the refusal of the FCC to hold a vote.

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 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 (, 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.