FCC action roils prospects of Sinclair’s merger with Tribune

There will be no quick fix for Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $6.6 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

The FCC on Wednesday evening voted unanimously to either send the case to an administrative law judge or open the deal once again to an extended comment period — exactly what Sinclair was trying to avoid.

Either route could take several months to complete.

The FCC had “serious concerns” over how Sinclair would divest three TV stations.

Hours before the FCC late-day move, Sinclair filed a new divestiture proposal it hoped would stop the FCC from delaying the deal, sources said.

Sinclair’s revised divestiture plan pulled off the table plans to sell the three stations — in Chicago, Dallas and Houston — to related buyers.

The FCC had said the sales would leave the stations not so independent.

The changes included not selling WGN in Chicago, as Sinclair had planned, and withdrawing the pending divestitures of KDAF in Dallas and KIAH in Houston to Cunningham Broadcasting Corp. and instead putting those stations in a divestiture trust to be sold to the highest bidder.

Newsmax, a critic of the deal, believes the changes aren’t enough to sway the FCC.

“It’s not a substantive submission and it fails to address the commission’s bipartisan concerns that this is a sham divestiture that must be reviewed by an independent administrative judge,” said Jonathan Schiller, a Newsmax lawyer.

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