Yesterday, the FCC issued a Public Notice declaring the proposed acquisition of the Tribune television stations by Sinclair Broadcast Group a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding. This is not an unusual occurrence in a large broadcast combination where policy issues may be considered. This simply allows the parties to the transaction, and any other party who files comments on the matter, to have discussions with FCC Commissioners and other FCC decision makers about the matter, as long as a description of substance of the discussion is reduced to writing and filed in the docket of the proceeding so that all other participants have notice of what is being said.
This acquisition will, of course, be one where the FCC’s recent decision (summarized here) about the UHF discount will come into play, particularly as there are parties currently appealing that decision (see our article on the appeal here). The FCC’s Public Notice also notes that Sinclair has highlighted situations where the acquisition does not comply with the current FCC local TV ownership rules where divestitures will be required, but notes that Sinclair has stated that it may amend the application should those local rules change while the application is still pending (see our article on proposals to change the local ownership rules pending as part of the reconsideration of last year’s ownership decision). No doubt, with even TV personalities like John Oliver offering commentary on this proceeding, we will be hearing much more about this acquisition before it is completed.