FCC Grants Tribune Waivers

Media Burea Okays Permanent Waiver In Chicago; Temporary Ones in Four Other Markets

It's official. The FCC Media Bureau has granted Tribune a permanent waiver of the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule in Chicago

It also given temporary waivers in four other markets, New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Hartford-New Haven, where Tribune had sought permanent waivers.The temporary waivers are for one year, after which the company can apply for new waivers.

The temporary waivers are for one year, after which the company can apply for new waivers.

The move, along with the FCC's expected denial of a separate petition to review the permanent waiver in Chicago, clears the way for the transfer of the station licenses and the emergence of the company from bankruptcy.

The commission also granted Tribune a failing station waiver in Hartford, a satellite waiver in Indianapolis, and pointed specifically to easing the company out of bankrupcty in the order granting the waivers.

Meanwhile, Former Fox and Discovery executive Peter Liguori is expected to be named CEO of Tribune Co. when it emerges from bankruptcy, the Chicago Tribune reports.

As Multichannel News reported, the bureau said it would deal with the petitions to deny the Chicago permanent waiver in a separate item. The chairman has circulated an item effectively denying those petitions, according to sources familiar with the item. The petitioners, which included the Teamsters and public activist groups, had argued the waiver decision should be held in abeyance until their reconsideration petition was resolved, but the FCC disagreed. "Tribune must accept the risk that the Commission or court could reverse the Commission's grant of the applications..."

The court, perhaps, but the chairman almost certainly has the votes on his proposal to deny those petitions, even if they had to come from the two Republicans on the panel.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai was happy with the decision, though he said the bureau should have given Tribune permanent waivers in all markets given the state of the newspapers and their willingness to continue to publish them. He also signaled he thought the commission would likely adopt the quadrennial media ownership rule review order circulated by the chairman Nov. 14. That order would loosen the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules to allow for combos in the top 20 markets, or at least make them presumptively in the public interest and put the onus on critics to prove they were not.

"While my preference would have been for the Media Bureau to grant the Tribune Company permanent waivers from the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule in the New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Hartford-New Haven markets," he said in a statement, "I am nonetheless pleased with today’s Order, he said. "It facilitates the company’s exit from bankruptcy, grants Tribune a permanent waiver in the Chicago market, and allows the company to maintain its newspaper-broadcast combinations in the four other markets so that they may be examined under the new rule we are likely to adopt later this year. Given the financial conditions confronting the newspaper industry, we should be applauding companies that continue to operate daily newspapers rather than saddling them with artificial and outdated regulatory burdens."