Sinclair Inches Closer to Merger With Tribune

Illustration by: Paweł Jońca

The merger agreement came in the wake of the FCC's relaxed ownership rules.

The U.S. Department of Justice is very close to blessing the merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media as regulators appear to be satisfied with a plan that would have the pair divest of some of their TV stations.

The $3.9 billion deal, once blessed by the DOJ, would still need the FCC's approval.

Broadcasting & Cable reported Friday that the OK from the DOJ could come today or next week, citing insiders familiar with the negotiations.

The merger agreement came in the wake of the FCC's relaxed media ownership rules, though combining Sinclair's 193 TV stations with Tribune's 42 was still too much to stomach for some regulators, hence some stations will be sold. 

Insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that 21st Century Fox is negotiating for roughly 10 stations, but that won't likely persuade detractors from objecting to the deal.

Some who oppose the merger — Media Matters for America, for example — do so on political grounds, given Sinclair management and much of its programming lean conservative, so detractors object to it growing larger through acquisition.

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, has been criticized for his deregulatory approach to mergers and acquisitions, though he says some of the restrictive rules of the past are no longer relevant in the internet era when Amazon, Hulu, YouTube and others are competing with traditional TV.