Tribune Media terminates deal to be bought by Sinclair

09 August, 2018, 21:18 | Author: Rafael Roberts
  • Scott Robbin  Flickr

In an announcement early Thursday morning, Tribune blamed Sinclair for the regulatory roadblocks that the deal has encountered at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Tribune filed the lawsuit against Sinclair, the largest US broadcast station owner, alleging material breach of contract over its failure to win over regulators 15 months after the merger was first announced. Sinclair already own 39% of the TV stations in the U.S., and this would have raised that to 42%.

Reporters at stations owned by Sinclair - which include almost 200 local affiliate news channels across the country branded as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and more - have been forced to run segments that attack Democratic politicians, discredit the FBI's investigation of Russian Federation, call other media outlets "false news", and even run a regular commentary show by a former Trump adviser.

Tribune withdrew from its $3.9 billion buyout by Sinclair, ending a bid to create a massive media juggernaut that could have rivaled the reach of Fox News. In addition, Tribune said, Sinclair outright refused to sell station in some markets.

"In an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell if advisable to obtain regulatory clearance, Sinclair engaged in belligerent and unnecessarily protracted negations with DOJ and the FCC over regulator requirements... all in the service of Sinclair's self-interest and in derogation of its contractual obligations", the suit alleges.

In addition to its merger plans, Sinclair also made headlines in April, when it ordered anchors at dozens of its TV stations to read the same speech during their broadcasts, warning against "biased and false news".

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Analysts expect Tribune to seek another buyer. "Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the merger agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable", he said.

Sinclair is the nation's largest local broadcaster, reaching about 4 in 10 USA households through TV stations. Complicating matters is that Pai is under investigation for relaxing FCC rules to allow groups like Sinclair to add more stations.

In its statement, Tribune said, "Sinclair's entire course of conduct has been in blatant violation of the merger agreement and, but for Sinclair's actions, the transaction could have closed long ago".

Tribune Media is a parent company of WGN-TV.

It's already been more than a year after the merger was announced; the two companies had previously said they would close the deal by the end of 2017.

FCC Chairman in July expressed "serious concerns" over the deal, saying Sinclair would still control the stations it divested in practice. It could have had a new show on WGN America or had an existing show moved there.

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