FCC halts Tribune Media merger review as Sinclair ponders station divestitures


The FCC has paused its review of Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media as Sinclair ponders divestitures that would help it earn regulatory approval for the deal.

The new development in the long review process comes after Sinclair executives Barry Faber, executive vice president and general counsel, and Rebecca Hanson, senior vice president of strategy and policy, met last week with Matthew Berry, chief of staff to Chairman Ajit Pai, and Alison Nemeth, media adviser to Pai.

The Sinclair representatives discussed their company’s divestiture plan and its communications with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Sinclair said it is “evaluating divestitures as well as Top-4 showings to be made in amendments to the applications consistent with the recent changes to the ownership rules,” according to an ex parte filing.

In response, the FCC said it would pause the 180-day merger review shot clock until after the referenced amendments and divestiture applications have been filed and staff has had an opportunity to fully review them.

RELATED: Fox buying 10 TV stations from Sinclair: report

News of the review pause accompanies reports from earlier this week suggesting that Sinclair is pursuing a deal to sell 10 television stations to Fox Broadcasting. Sinclair is reportedly looking to sell full-power stations in markets where it would own two stations following the Tribune deal. According to a Financial Times report, Fox is hoping it could better monetize its NFL rights by owning those stations.