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FCC Says Sinclair Must Amend/Withdraw Some Allbritton Transfers

Media Bureau Says Deals in Three Markets, as Structured, Would Not Pass Muster 12/08/2013 2:38 PM Eastern

The FCC has told Sinclair it must amend its deal to buy Allbritton TV stations or drop its request to buy stations in three markets -- Charleston, Birmingham, and Harrisburg -- where they would eliminate the grandfathering of certain local marketing agreements (LMAs) and thus violate the FCC's local ownership rules.

That came in a letter dated Friday to Sinclair from the FCC's Media Bureau.

As part of its deal to buy all the Allbritton stations, Sinclair is spinning stations off in those markets to a third party but will provide support services to them, including acting as the station's agent in retrans, according to ACA.

The bureau also said Sinclair needed to provide more information in those agreements, and to explain why not providing it in the first plance squared with its responsibility to "provide all informatoin necessary to allow for meaningful review of the application in question."

“ACA is pleased that the FCC’s Media Bureau is closely scrutinizing the Sinclair-Allbritton deal," said ACA president Matt Polka. "This level of inspection is appropriate and necessary given the issues identified by the Bureau and because the deal would permit Sinclair to increase its already prodigious market power over retransmission consent in two local TV markets through coordination agreements with stations owned separately in name only.”

The Sinclair deal is under scrutiny by both the Justice Department and the FCC.

The American Cable Associaton, among others, has asked the FCC to block the spin-off deals, arguing they are a way for Sinclair to skirt FCC local ownership rules. A Sinclair spokesperson was not immediately available Saturday to comment on the letter.

In July, Sinclair announced it had struck a $985 million deal with Allbritton for its seven ABC Network affiliates, covering 4.9% of the U.S. TV households, and NewsChannel 8, a 24-hour cable news network covering the Washington metropolitan area.

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