Cross-Ownership Muddies Tribune Sale

[SOURCE: Washington Post 11/3, AUTHOR: Frank Ahrens]
The Tribune Co. eyes an uncertain future as it sorts through bids from potential buyers. One thing is clear, however: Any new owner faces numerous regulatory hurdles and is going to spend plenty of time and money in Washington and in court. The Chicago-based media giant owns 11 television stations and 25 newspapers, some in the same city -- a violation of Federal Communications Commission rules on what it calls "cross-ownership." Tribune has received FCC waivers that allow it to keep the properties in violation, at least temporarily. But those waivers will not convey to a new owner. And any new owner will face continued waiver challenges from advocacy groups that oppose media consolidation. The first challenge was filed with the FCC November 2. "Anybody looking to buy the whole [Tribune] package is buying a lot of uncertainty," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, an advocacy group that generally opposes media consolidation and filed the petition to block Tribune's waiver in Los Angeles, where it owns television station KTLA. Schwartzman's group has asked the FCC to deny Tribune's request to renew its license to own KTLA under waiver, arguing that Tribune has made no effort to sell KTLA, has no interest in divesting its Los Angeles properties and is holding on to them in hopes that the FCC will lift cross-ownership restrictions. Schwartzman's group is also planning challenges to Tribune station licenses in Connecticut and New York, which come up for renewal next year, something that a new Tribune owner would have to contend with.
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