UPDATED AT 4:15pm PACIFIC
Confusion over the fate of Tribune Media‘s WGN-9 in Chicago was resolved Wednesday afternoon, after it was confirmed that the flagship broadcast TV property of the company that is ever-closer to a merger with Sinclair Broadcast Group will not be placed in the newly created divestiture trust led by Richard A. Foreman and RAFAMEDIA LLC.
Rather, WGN-9 will be sold outright by Tribune — and new details have emerged that confirm Sinclair will still run it. The same can be said for WPIX-11 in New York.
According to a February 2018 amendment to a June 2017 “Comprehensive Exhibit” totaling 102 pages that was not included in the Form 314 filings conducted by Sinclair on Wednesday, the company revealed that “the parties intend to divest WGN-TV immediately prior to the closing” of the Tribune Media/Sinclair merger.
“An agreement to sell WGN-9 to a third party has been executed and an assignment application with respect thereto will be filed shortly hereafter.”
However, the document states in a footnote that the purchase agreement provides that upon closing of the sale of this station, Sinclair will enter into an option and services agreement with the buyer of this station. This may very well be Cunningham Broadcasting, which has very close ties to Sinclair — as a majority of its 20 stations are run by Sinclair.
The same footnote reflects the buyer of WPIX-11.
However, the sale of WGN-9 will do much to put Sinclair under the national ownership cap: It says that the divestiture of WGN-TV will reduce the combined company’s post-transaction national audience reach, including the UHF discount, by 1.51%.
That’s crucial, as the final selection of the stations to be placed in the divestiture trust puts Sinclair post-merger within the FCC’s national ownership cap.
This has been a thorn in Sinclair’s side, as opponents of its merger with Tribune have assailed the company for taking advantage of the FCC’s restoration of the “UHF discount” for being able to make the transaction happen.
Now, it appears, Democrats including Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) appear to have little to fight.
When all is said and done, Sinclair will have a national audience reach of approximately 37.3%, including the UHF discount, which will be in compliance with the National Cap Rule.