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FCC grants Tribune Co. waivers, clears way to end bankruptcy

November 16, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera

WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators on Friday granted waivers to the Tribune Co. for its ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in five markets, clearing the way for the company to emerge from its long-running bankruptcy.

The Federal Communication Commission's Media Bureau issued the waivers of its so-called cross-ownership rules for Tribune's media properties in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, South Florida and Hartford, Conn.

The waivers allow the agency to transfer TV and radio station licenses in those markets to Tribune's new owners, a group led by senior creditors Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“We are extremely pleased with today’s action by the FCC,” said Eddy Hartenstein, Tribune’s chief executive officer. “This decision will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks.”

The company already had waivers in the five markets, but the FCC must approve the transfer of broadcast licenses from one owner to another.

The FCC granted Tribune a permanent waiver for the company's longtime ownership of the Chicago Tribune newspaper and the WGN radio and television stations in the Chicago market.

The FCC also gave 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, South Florida and Hartford.

The company would have one year in those four markets to sell either its newspapers or broadcast stations. But the FCC is in the process of considering loosening its media ownership rules to make it easier for companies to get waivers for newspaper and broadcast station combinations in the top 20 markets.

The FCC is expected to approve those changes by the end of the year. If the changes are approved, the FCC said Tribune could seek new waivers in those markets.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had no comment on the decision.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said he would have preferred the agency's Media Bureau grant Tribune permanent waivers in all the markets. But he still was pleased with the decision. 

"It facilitates the company’s exit from bankruptcy, grants Tribune a permanent waiver in the Chicago market, and allows the company to maintain its newspaper-broadcast combinations in the four other markets so that they may be examined under the new rule we are likely to adopt later this year," Pai said.

"Given the financial conditions confronting the newspaper industry, we should be applauding companies that continue to operate daily newspapers rather than saddling them with artificial and outdated regulatory burdens," he said.


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