The FCC has had Sinclair's latest amended application for its Tribune purchase for more than a day and at press time had still not re-started the clock on its review of the deal, which has been paused since Jan. 4 on day 167.
The clock has been stopped twice during the review, which has topped 300 days in actual time (the deal was accepted for filing with the FCC June 26, 2017).
FCC sources have signaled that the clock would re-start when the commission had the final version of the deal, so it could be put out for public comment and replies.
That signal is likely the Justice Department's announcement that it no longer has any antitrust issues with the deal.
Sinclair has resubmitted the deal three times, spinning off different stations and adjusting sidecar agreements to square it with Justice Department concerns about control of ad inventory in markets and to reflect new ownership possibilities after FCC media ownership deregulation went into effect Feb. 7.
But the FCC did not restart the clock for the previous two amendments either, apparently confident they were not the last versions to be seen.
The fact that Sinclair has decided to spin off stations in duopoly markets where FCC rules don't require that divestiture strongly suggests that was to address those DOJ concerns about advertising dominance, which in turn suggests this could finally be the final iteration of the deal.
An FCC spokesperson was unavailable for comment at press time.