WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Monday approved Nexstar Media Group Inc.’s acquisition of Tribune Media Co., a $6.4 billion deal that creates the largest regional television station operator in the United States.
Among stations joining the Nexstar group are two in St. Louis: KTVI (Channel 2) and KPLR (Channel 11).
The 3-2 vote by the FCC represents the final regulatory approval needed to close the deal. In July, the U.S. Justice Department gave its approval, but directed the two companies to divest television stations in 13 markets to resolve antitrust concerns.
FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, a Republican, backed the deal and said broadcasters “are forced to compete against Silicon Valley behemoths for advertising dollars. Any opportunities to enable broadcasters to compete more effectively should therefore be encouraged and embraced.”
He added that “seismic shifts confronting the television industry threaten to send some entities the way of the newspaper.... The tsunami is already sweeping ashore and we’re still debating how many umbrellas the beachgoers are allowed to own.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, dissented saying the combined firm will be the “largest in our nation’s history” and “will be able to broadcast to more than three in five of our nation’s television households.”
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, said the deal is only permissible because of a “loophole” based on obsolete technical grounds that allows station owners to only partially count stations against a national ownership cap.
Tribune previously agreed to sell itself to Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. but terminated that deal in August 2018. It later filed a lawsuit that accused Sinclair of mishandling efforts to get the transaction approved; Sinclair filed a counterclaim, accusing Tribune of breach of contract.
Based in Irving, Texas, Nexstar owns, operates and provides sales and other services to 174 television stations reaching nearly 39 percent of all U.S. television households. Nexstar said in March it was selling 19 television stations to Tegna Inc. and E.W. Scripps Co. for $1.3 billion to satisfy regulatory demands before it buys Tribune.
Based in Chicago, Tribune Media owns or operates 42 local television stations reaching approximately 50 million households. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy in late 2012 and completed a spinoff of its newspaper assets in 2014.