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Tribune close to clearing last bankruptcy hurdle

FCC staff are recommending that waivers be granted Tribune to allow ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same market.

November 15, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Tribune Co. is close to securing the regulatory approval it needs to emerge from its long-running bankruptcy.

The staff of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday recommended that the agency grant the company waivers of rules that prohibit the ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same city. Tribune needs the waivers for its cross-ownership of media properties in Los Angeles and four other markets.

The waivers — the last major hurdle in the four-year case — would be granted Friday as long as none of the five commissioners raises serious objections, according to a person at the FCC who wasn't authorized to speak and therefore did not want to be identified. No vote is required for the waivers to take effect.

The waivers would allow the agency to transfer TV and radio station licenses to Tribune's new owners. And that would set the wheels in motion to emerge from bankruptcy, something that can happen as soon as new ownership — a group led by senior creditors Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — can complete the necessary paperwork.

The FCC's Media Bureau has told commissioners it plans to grant Tribune's new owners a permanent waiver for the company's longtime ownership of the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WGN radio and television stations in the Chicago market.

The staff also plans to give one-year waivers for the Tribune's ownership of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5 and for similar arrangements in New York, southern Florida and Hartford, Conn.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment, as did Tribune Vice President Shaun Sheehan.

Also on Wednesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated among commissioners a proposal for new media ownership rules that would ease restrictions on consolidations among newspapers and TV and radio stations, according to an FCC spokesman.

The proposal, expected to be approved by the end of the year, would open the door for Tribune to seek permanent waivers in Los Angeles, New York, South Florida and Hartford.

The proposal would "streamline and modernize media ownership rules," the spokesman said.

Genachowski proposed to eliminate prohibitions on ownership of a newspaper and radio stations in the same market, and ownership of radio and TV stations in the same market.

His proposal also would loosen rules on owning a newspaper and TV station in the same city, making it much easier to get a waiver for such combinations in the 20 largest markets.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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