FCC Targets Sinclair Sidecar Deals In 3 Markets

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The Federal Communication Commission’s Media Bureau has alleged that the sidecar transactions that Sinclair Broadcast Group has proposed in three markets -- Charleston (SC), Birmingham (AL), and Harrisburg (PA) -- as part of its $985-million pending acquisition of Allbritton Communications would violate agency ownership rules.

Under the deals at issue, Sinclair is proposing to take over the Allbritton ABC affiliates in those markets, spin off one of its existing stations in the markets to sidecar companies, in transactions that would give Sinclair some control over at least some operations of multiple TV stations in each market. In a letter to Sinclair, however, FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman said the way the deals were structured, Sinclair would lose grandfathered protections that it previously had that allow it to operate more than one TV station in each market through local marketing agreements (LMAs). LMAs, which essentially allowed broadcasters to operate multiple stations in a market completely, are no longer legal. “In three of the markets -- Charleston, Birmingham and Harrisburg -- the proposed transactions would result in the elimination of the grandfathered status of certain local marketing agreements and thus cause the transactions to violate our local TV ownership rules,” Kreisman said in her letter. Kreisman also asked Sinclair to provide the agency with financial data showing that its sidecar partners in the three markets are genuinely running the programming operations of the stations.


FCC Targets Sinclair Sidecar Deals In 3 Markets