Washington

Court Signs Off on Sinclair/Allbritton Deal

Justice officially ends antitrust review; ball now in FCC's court 7/22/2014 10:30:00 AM Eastern

The Justice Department signaled Tuesday that it has no antitrust issues with Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton stations.

That came in a list from the Federal Trade Commission of deals whose antitrust reviews have ended. It also came after a court signed of on Sinclair's settlement with Justice pegged to one part of the transaction.

A Sinclair exec confirmed that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had signed the agreement, submitted to the court, in which Sinclair will run WHTM Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York separately during the period between the closing of the deal and the sale of that station to Media General, which Justice had made a condition of its approval. Sinclair announced June 23 that Media General would acquire WHTM for $83.4 million.

According to an Allbritton source, the actual consent decree won’t be signed by the court for 60 days, but signing the so-called “hold-separate” agreement for WHTM means Justice could sign off, which it has.

Now it is up to the FCC. At press time, the clock was still running on on its review of the deal, but approval was expected before the July 27 date after which either company could back out of the sale.

Sinclair restructured the deal to make it more palatable to an FCC now focused on sharing arrangements with associated financial elements.

The FCC accepted Sinclair's transfer applications for the licenses back in August 2013, and the FCC's unofficial 180-day shot clock—which can be stopped and started—shows it at day 325 of that review.

Sinclair announced July 29, 2013, that it had struck a deal for Allbritton's TV stations, including WJLA Washington, and its NewsChannel 8 regional cable news net. At the time, the deal was expected to close by the fourth quarter of that year, but the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler has been going over deals involving sharing arrangements with a fine-tooth-comb and signaled they would take extra time to vet.

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