For Tribune’s 8.2B privatization to go forward, it needs to have newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership restrictions either waived temporarily or lifted altogether. Los Angeles Times is reporting that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants the rules done away with, and is therefore holding off on waiver grants in hopes of getting a positive vote on cross-ownership easements from the two Democratic commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Martin’s office has said one thing has nothing to do with the other, but LAT quoted both as objecting to tying a policy decision to a specific business transaction. There are strong fears that failure to get regulatory relief soon may cause the Tribune deal to unravel.
TVBR/RBR observation: It’s been our position that as long as the cross-ownership regulatory issue remains pending, it is unfair to punish companies that have played by the rules while the rules have been punted from one venue to another. We see no reason to change that position now. If cross-ownership restrictions are not relaxed, fine, Tribune must do what is necessary to come into compliance. But it should not be forced to bust up a multimedia combo now that may be perfectly legal next year. This is simple fairness.