Deadline for DOJ Sinclair-Tribune Decision Moved to Feb. 11

Third Circuit denial could clear way for deal call

The Sinclair/Tribune deal watch continued Thursday, with the newest developments Sinclair's filing with the SEC that it had moved the deadline for the Justice Department to oppose the deal to Feb. 11 (from Jan. 30) and the Third Circuit Appeals court's decision Wednesday (Feb. 7) not to stay the Feb. 7 effective date of the FCC's November vote to allow broadcast group owners to potentially own more TV stations, or in Sinclair's case not have to spin off as many stations as part of its deal.

Related: NAB, Sinclair Defend Dereg in Court

Sinclair had indicated to Wall Street and regulators that it would adjust the deal per that FCC deregulatory move.

Sinclair told the SEC Feb. 6:

“As has been previously disclosed, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (“Sinclair”) and Tribune Media Company (“Tribune”) are parties to a timing agreement with the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) under which agreement (as amended) they agreed not to consummate their previously announced merger before January 30, 2018 (the “Timing Agreement End Date”). The parties have agreed with the DOJ to extend the Timing Agreement End Date until February 11, 2018. Tribune and Sinclair must also provide ten days advance notice to the DOJ that they intend to consummate the merger."

Related: Fox Eyes Buying 10 Sinclair Stations

Deal watchers had been looking for a DOJ decision last week, but the department may have been waiting on the Third Circuit decision.

The FCC must still sign off on its review of the public interest impact of the proposed merger. It stopped the informal 180-day clock on its review on Jan. 11, citing a need to see what Sinclair was planning to divest given the changes to the ownership rules.

Sinclair has said it would spin off whatever stations it has to comply with relevant FCC rules, but the FCC has made it easier for broadcast groups to add more stations by restoring the UHF discount and loosening the duopoly and crossownership rules.