NAB to FCC: Approve the Nexstar-Media General review already

NAB Gordon Smith
NAB CEO Gordon Smith. Image: NAB

With the regulatory review now exceeding 230 days, and the U.S. Justice Department already having signed off on the deal a month ago, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is urging the FCC to green-light Nexstar's $4.6 billion takeover of Media General.

NAB, along with several diversity groups, wants the FCC not to wait until its incentive auction is over to approve the merger. The delay is somewhat bureaucratic — the agency said Nexstar and Media General missed a filing deadline that would have enabled the agency to transfer licenses of stations participating in the auction. Now they have to wait until after the auction is over — whenever that is — to close their deal. 

“Refusing to permit the consummation of an approved transaction for an additional indefinite period – on top of the nearly eight months their applications have been pending – unfairly penalizes broadcasters who seek to conduct routine business during the course of the extended incentive auction process,” NAB said in a letter sent to the agency.

Before divestures, the merger was set to create a broadcast behemoth, controlling 171 stations in more than 100 markets. 

Fearing the leverage such an entity will have in broadcast retransmission licensing negotiations, companies like Dish Network and orgs including the American Cable Association have vigorously contested the deal with the FCC. 

In an ex parte jointly filed a month ago, Dish and ACA said, “Among other things, if approved, this transaction would create a new broadcast ownership conglomerate of unprecedented size and scope, one which will control the highest number of the Big-4 local broadcast stations in the country and have the power to threaten service blackouts to millions of consumers if any pay-TV distributor tries to hold the line on retransmission consent fees, which have risen more than 22,000 percent since 2005.”

In short, the pay-TV guys aren’t nearly as broken up about the indefinite delay as the NAB is. 

As the auction moves forward with no fixed end date, Nexstar and Media General are frozen in place while they wait for the Commission’s determination. The FCC’s delay in acting upon the proposed merger also has created ongoing and unnecessary uncertainty regarding associated transactions for divestitures that, if consummated, will increase female and minority ownership of television stations and result in the sale of other stations to small, independent broadcasters.

For more:
- read this NAB letter 

Related articles:
Nexstar gets Justice Dept. approval for $4.6B Media General buy, but it must sell seven more stations
Dish, ACA seek ‘baseball-syle’ arbitration, other conditions on Nexstar-Media General merger
Cox urges FCC to block Nexstar-Media General merger