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Tribune: 'On Track' to Close Sinclair Deal

Companies have received second DOJ request for information 8/09/2017 9:28 AM Eastern

Peter Kern, Tribune Media's CEO said Wednesday (Aug. 9) that Sinclair's $3.9 billion bid to buy Tribune's 42 TV stations remains "on track," while acknowledging the Department of Justice had issued a second request for information on the deal from both Sinclair and Tribune.

Kern was speaking during Tribune's announcement of its second-quarter financial results. Sinclair and Tribune have signaled that "on track" would be a close by the end for the fourth quarter.

Related: Diverse Groups Combine to Oppose Sinclair-Tribune

The DOJ request came on Aug. 2 and extends the Hart Scott Rodino waiting period for consummating a transaction by 30 days after the companies have "substantially complied" with the request, unless the deal submission gets early termination, meaning DOJ finds no reason to block or condition the deal. Such requests for additional info are not uncommon.

The FCC has received numerous petitions to deny the deal, or delay a decision until after the FCC completes a review of media ownership rules, which could affect that timetable. Sinclair and Tribune have until Aug. 22 to respond to those petitions and various comments that were critical but fell short of asking for outright denial.

Currently the deal is only in day 33 of its FCC review, which extends beyond the antitrust issues DOJ focuses on to issues of public interest benefits or harms. The commission aims for a 180-day timeline for such reviews, though that is only an unofficial guide. For example, it took the commission 327 days to approve Sinclair's purchase of the Allbritton stations back in 2014.

Related: Indie Programmers Slam Sinclair-Tribune

The FCC did deny a request by various deal critics that it extend the comment period and require the companies to provide a more thorough case for the public interest benefits of the deal, which could have extended the timeline for review.

Tribune also said in its financial report that it had received, as of Aug. 9, $185 million of the $190 million it is getting for the stations for which it submitted winning bids to move or relinquish spectrum in the FCC's broadcast incentive auction, with the other $5 million it anticipates getting in the second half of 2017. Tribune described the $190 million as "pretax proceeds resulting from the auction." The government has paid out all the money it is giving Tribune, according to the FCC. The shortfall, a Tribune spokesperson confirmed, is money from channel-sharing partners.

As part of the auction, the FCC allowed stations to pay to share spectrum so they could stay on the air while giving up spectrum in the auction, the route most stations are taking.

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