An administrative law judge overseeing a hearing requested by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Media Enforcement Bureau has indefinitely suspended her review of a deal between broadcaster TEGNA and investment firm Standard General.
The decision to suspend the review will effectively kill any chances that Standard General’s acquisition of TEGNA and its five dozen television stations will go through by a May 22 deadline. The deadline is when financing for the deal is set to run out; executives at Standard General say there’s virtually no chance to receive the same financing terms for the deal that it did several years ago, thanks in large part to interest rate hikes and other macroeconomic matters.
The deal was opposed by several public interest groups and unions representing TEGNA employees, including the NewsGuild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Engineers (both unions are part of the broader Communication Workers of America). Opponents say the merger will harm competition, kill jobs and reduce investments in local programming.
Standard General’s $8.6 billion deal to acquire TEGNA was funded in part by Apollo Global Management, a hedge fund that holds operational control over dozens of Cox Media Group television stations. The deal would essentially make TEGNA’s television stations co-owned with Cox Media, which fueled further opposition to the merger.
Officials in support of the merger say the FCC essentially abdicated its responsibility when the Media Enforcement Bureau referred the matter to Halprin for review. Merger supporters said the decision was meant to delay efforts to complete the deal in a way that would effectively cause it to fall apart.
Last week, the FCC’s administrative law judge Jane Halprin said there was not enough time to thoroughly review discovery evidence from both sides for a complete examination of the matter prior to the May 22 deadline.