The proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, which would involve multiple broadcast stations in Missouri and hundreds across the country, is still up in the air amid a last-ditch effort to move the deal forward.
Sinclair said Wednesday that it would backtrack on certain station divestment deals in an effort to get its $3.9 billion buyout of Tribune back in good favor with the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair, the top U.S. TV broadcast group, said it would drop plans to divest stations in Dallas, Chicago and Houston, which it had previously planned to sell to companies with ties to Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith. FCC officials suggested those plans would allow to Sinclair to control the stations through illegal back channels.
On Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voiced concerns over the merger, saying evidence suggested “certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”
Sinclair’s Missouri properties include KBSI Fox 23 and WDKA 49, in Cape Girardeau; KCRG CBS 13, in mid-Missouri; KHQA CBS 7, in Hannibal; KTVO ABC 3, in Kirksville; and KDNL ABC 30, in St. Louis.
Tribune Media owns 42 stations, including KTVI Fox 2 and KPLR CW 11, in St. Louis, and WDAF Fox 4, in Kansas City.
In April, Sinclair said it would sell 23 TV stations to obtain FCC approval and meet antitrust laws. The company needs FCC permission to own more than one station in some markets.
The media company is the largest TV broadcaster in the U.S. and would own or operate 215 stations covering 70 percent of the country if the deal gets approved.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch