Sinclair, Tribune in talks to overcome regulatory hurdles

Friday, August 3, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 31

NEW YORK (AP) — The Sinclair broadcasting company says it's in talks with Tribune Media on how to overcome regulatory hurdles to its $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune's 42 TV stations.

The deadline for either party to walk away from the deal is midnight on Wednesday.

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said Wednesday morning that the companies are working to find approaches that are best for the company, employees and shareholders. He made the comments as Sinclair reported quarterly financial results.

In July, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai raised concerns about the deal and ordered a hearing. Although Sinclair has proposed selling some stations to address potential antitrust concerns, Pai said Sinclair might still be able to operate the stations "in practice, even if not in name."

At the time, one potential buyer was the Cunningham Group, which has ties to Sinclair's founding family. Sinclair has said it will no longer sell two stations to Cunningham and will instead seek FCC permission to sell them to another unrelated party.

Sinclair and its proposed deal for Tribune received widespread attention after news reports in April showed dozens of Sinclair news anchors reading an identical script expressing concern about "one-sided news stories plaguing the country." At the time, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the company. Sinclair defended the effort as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.

With 192, Sinclair is one of the nation's largest owners of TV stations. Tribune's 42 stations include KTLA in Los Angeles and WPIX in New York.

If the companies remain in talks, they will face a lengthy hearing process with the FCC. In the past, just the prospect of that has dissuaded companies from continuing with merger plans. The last deal an FCC hearing blocked was a 2002 merger of satellite TV companies DirecTV and Echostar.