Tribune seeks FCC waivers to back private bid


WASHINGTON- Tribune Co. is expected to ask federal regulators on Tuesday to waive restrictions that could prevent it from owning television stations and newspapers in the same city as part of an $8.2 billion deal to go private.

The deal led by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell means the company will be employee-owned while Zell will get an option to take 40% of the company. But before this can happen, Tribune needs approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission because it involves the transfer of broadcast licenses.

Under current FCC rules, a company cannot own a daily newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market although many media companies do under agency waivers.

Tribune has such arrangements in Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Los Angeles and New York.

It has also been allowed to own the Chicago Tribune as well as the WGN television and radio network because it owned the properties before the media ownership rules became law.

The five-member FCC is reviewing its cross-ownership rules after a previous attempt to loosen restrictions in most media markets was set aside by a U.S. appeals court.

"We are asking that Zell be put in the shoes of Tribune, be granted a temporary waiver until the outcome of the cross-ownership rule-making," a Tribune spokesman said.

"We're going to lose grandfathering (rights) when Zell gets control of company, but we remain confident that at the end of the day, cross-ownership relief in the largest markets literally has to be granted."

On Monday, in Tampa Bay, Florida, the FCC held the fourth of six media-ownership hearings scheduled for this year. The FCC has already held hearings in Los Angeles, Nashville and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Tribune said last month it would cut up to 250 jobs at the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune amid declining profits and a shift of readers and advertisers to the Internet.