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Statement on Today’s Standard General Meeting with Two FCC Commissioners Regarding Proposed TEGNA Acquisition

FOR RELEASE: May 10, 2023

Statement on Today’s Standard General Meeting with Two FCC Commissioners Regarding Proposed TEGNA Acquisition

Today’s meetings at the FCC appear to have been nothing more than a desperate attempt by two Wall Street funds, Standard General and Apollo Global Management, and their attorneys to spin the facts and prepare for likely litigation after their deal implodes in less than two weeks. The meetings were highly unusual, bordering on improper. The FCC’s General Counsel apparently advised at least one commissioner against participating. Nevertheless, CWA and other petitioners sent their attorneys to the meetings with Commissioners Carr and Simington to make several key points:

These meetings will have no impact on the final outcome. As Commissioner Carr has said, “There's no mechanism in FCC rules for non-chair Commissioners, no matter how many of them…are in support of a particular position, to force a vote on anything.” The Administrative Law Judge concluded that, unless Standard General comes up with new financing, the deal will end on May 22nd. Even Standard General’s own attorney, Scott Flick, admitted in an open hearing before the ALJ that there “is no Plan B” for new financing. So, even if a majority of Commissioners somehow inexplicably attempted to vote on the Hearing Designation Order, the likelihood of final approval and judicial appeals to be completed in twelve days is next to zero.

Did Standard General request these meetings because it expects litigation after the deal dies? The transaction agreement establishes Standard General’s level of effort to get the deal approved, and if there are lawsuits after the deal implodes, Standard General probably will try to show that it worked as hard as possible to get approval, even to the point of having meetings like today’s. What it should have done, however, is meet its burden and, even after the FCC gave it two additional opportunities to do so, provide all the facts.

The Media Bureau raised questions about unresolved substantial and material factual issues that still have not been answered. Under the Communications Act, the FCC had no choice but to convene a hearing. When then-Chairman Pai sent the Sinclair-Tribune merger to an ALJ, he did so because there were factual issues. Similarly, the Media Bureau in this case asked an ALJ to determine what the real facts are with respect to possible collusion to raise prices and premeditated plans to cut jobs, despite claims to the contrary.  

Earlier today, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Jan Schakowsky reiterated their opposition to Standard General’s proposed acquisition of TEGNA and support for the FCC’s approach:

Tweet from Senator Warren: “A Wall Street hedge fund is trying to buy local TV stations, risking higher prices and fewer jobs. @FCC under the leadership of @JRosenworcelFCC is rightfully conducting a review of the Standard General-Tegna deal as part of the Biden admin’s commitment to promote competition.”

Statement from Rep. Schakowsky: “It is refreshing that FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is considering the public interest in this particular case. Local news is the lifeblood of our democracy, and unfortunately, it appears as though Wall Street saw what they did to local newspapers as a model worthy of replication. I applaud Chair Rosenworcel for considering the impact of Wall Street investments on local news.”