FCC Approves Sinclair/Allbritton Deal

Follows DOJ Sign-off Earlier This Week
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The FCC's Media Bureau Thursday approved Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton TV stations and denied petitions to deny the deal.

That came on day 327 of its informal 180-day review of the deal--but almost a year to the day since it was announced--and followed Sinclair's decision earlier this year to restructure the deal to address telegraphed FCC concerns about deals with sharing agreements that included associated financial arrangements.

The Department of Justice already said it had no trouble with the deal so long as Sinclair sells Allbritton's ABC affiliate WHTM Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, which Sinclair plans to do, and in the interim does not control that station between the deal's approval and that sale. That promise was made in a separate "hold separate" agreement struck between DOJ and Sinclair.

Sinclair announced June 23 that Media General would acquire WHTM for $83.4 million.

On July 22, DOJ signaled it was OK with the deal. That followed the court's approval of that "hold separate" agreement.

Sinclair announced July 29, 2013, that it had struck a $985 million deal for Allbritton's TV stations, including WJLA Washington, and its NewsChannel 8 regional cable news net. At the time, the deal was expected to close by the fourth quarter, but the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler has been going over deals involving sharing arrangements with a fine-tooth-comb and signaled they would take extra time to vet.

In March, folliwing signals from the FCC that it was giving sharing deals the eagle, some argued evil, eye, Sinclair restructured the deal to get rid of the shared services arrangements the FCC is looking askance at in some circumstances. That included stations in South Carolina and Alabama slated to go dark as part of Sinclair's effort to get the FCC to approve the deal.

Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Sunlight Foundation last week tried to use their complaint against Allbritton's WJLA Washington over its political ad filings as an informal last-minute objection to the deal.