The National Association of Broadcasters has joined with a number of diversity groups in asking the FCC not to wait until after the incentive auction is over, which is likely a couple months away at least and perhaps more, to act on the Nexstar/Media General merger request.
NAB said that given that the Justice Department has already approved the deal subject to some station spin-offs including to a minority owner, which would boost diverse ownership, and the fact that the FCC has exceeded the 180-day informal shot clock for the deals, it told the FCC it needed to "fulfill its duty to process the transaction immediately."
The FCC said it would not act on license transfers sought by stations participating in the auction unless the transaction were filed by a date certain, which Nexstar and Media General missed by only a few days.
Since Media General had indicated it would be participating in the auction—it was allowed by the FCC to signal, and did signal, that it was applying to be eligible—-FCC action on the transfer could provide more specific information about the auction, which is potentially in violation of the FCC’s rule against public disclosures.
Nexstar and Media General sought a waiver of that Prohibited Communications Rule in hopes the deal approval would not have to wait until the end of the auction for a decision.
"Refusing to permit the consummation of an approved transaction for an additional indefinite period on top of the nearly eight months their applications have been pending –unfairly penalizes broadcasters who seek to conduct routine business during the course of the extended incentive auction process."
The FCC deadline for filing transactions involving auction-eligible stations was back in January, and the auction could conceivably extend into January of 2017, though it could also wrap up by next month if the FCC does not have to go to a third stage.
Currently the second stage of the reverse auction is likely to end next week at the latest, then a second stage forward auction would ensue only four business days later.