FCC chair: Sinclair's plan for TV station sales isn't lawful

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Satellite dishes outside the headquarters building of Sinclair Broadcast Group in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Satellite dishes outside the headquarters building of Sinclair Broadcast Group in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Credit: Jonathan Hanson/Bloomberg

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed sending Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s proposed purchase of Tribune Media Co. to a hearing—a step that implies months of delay and can kill a deal.

Sinclair dropped as much as 7.9 percent, the most since February, on the news. Tribune plunged as much as 18 percent, with frequent pauses for high volatility, for the biggest intraday drop since January 2017.

Sinclair's proposed sales of some stations to meet media ownership limits "would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law," Pai in an emailed statement Monday. Pai said he had asked fellow commissioners to vote to send the $3.9 billion deal to a hearing.

Pai said he had asked colleagues to vote to send the "certain proposed divestitures for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge." Pai also shared a statement about the Sinclair/Tribune deal on Twitter:

Sinclair, which grew from a single TV station in Baltimore in 1971, is trying to leap into nationwide prominence with the deal for 42 Tribune stations in cities including New York. The purchase would lift Sinclair's station total above 200. It's being examined by the FCC and by antitrust regulators at the Justice Department.

—Todd Shields, Bloomberg News

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