While Sinclair signaled Wednesday (Feb. 21) that it will be divesting ownership in WPIX-TV New York and WGN-TV Chicago to get under the FCC's 39% ownership cap, it could still be keeping its hand in the No. 1 and No. 3 markets, respectively, where it does not currently own any stations.
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While Sinclair said it already has a purchase agreement (or agreements -- that is unclear) for both stations, the deal includes a services agreement under which Sinclair could provide some services to the new owner.
Sinclair's amended Tribune deal filed with the FCC included footnotes on the sales of both WGN and WPIX to the effect that: "The purchase agreement provides that upon closing of the sale of this station, Sinclair will enter into an option and master services agreement [the WGN footnote simply says 'services agreement' or 'agreements,' plural] with the buyer of this station [WGN or WPIX], copies of which will be filed as part of the assignment application for such station."
One analyst talking on background said a sale of both stations to Cunningham, which already owns a number of stations that have various management agreements with Sinclair, is a definite possibility.
The FCC, as part of its media deregulation efforts, scrapped the previous Democratic FCC's advisory on joint agreements, which warned that the FCC viewed them essentially as a way to skirt FCC ownership rules.