Sinclair-Tribune deal shifts DOJ decision deadline to Feb. 11

The U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Coolcaesar/Wikimedia)

Sinclair Broadcast Group has extended the deadline for the U.S. Justice Department’s decision regarding its proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

In an SEC filing, Sinclair and Tribune said that they had agreed to not consummate the merger before Jan. 30, 2018, but now that deadline has been moved to Feb. 11, 2018. Tribune and Sinclair also agreed to provide 10 days’ notice to the DOJ before closing the merger.

The development comes after the FCC, which is also evaluating the deal, paused its review process last month.

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Sinclair’s bid for Tribune is reportedly on track for DOJ approval, but the company and the government agency are reportedly still discussing Sinclair divesting television stations in order to reduce its market control and national audience reach.

However, as Variety pointed out this week, recent FCC filings from Sinclair suggest the company may be seeking waivers in order to own multiple stations in top markets.

RELATED: Fox buying 10 TV stations from Sinclair: report

Last month, Rebecca Hanson, senior vice president of strategy and policy for Sinclair, and Miles Mason, counsel to Sinclair, met with FCC staff to discuss protocol for obtaining a waiver. Sinclair was seeking to get a better understanding of the criteria set forth in the FCC’s recent order proposing case-by-case analysis of proposed top-4 combinations. The meeting focused on the criteria set out in the Reconsideration Order and the types of information that might be presented in making such a showing.

Among the changes the FCC made in November 2017 was the elimination of the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule, Radio/Television Cross-Ownership Rule, and Television Joint Sales Agreement Attribution Rule. Also, the FCC voted to get rid of the eight-voices rule, which bars an entity from owning two stations in one market unless eight independent broadcasters would remain.

In the meantime, Sinclair is reportedly pursuing a deal to sell as many as 10 TV stations to Fox.