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Tribune Gets Permanent Cross-Ownership Waiver in Chicago

FCC decision affects WGN(AM), WGN(TV), Chicago Tribune; waivers help Tribune exit bankruptcy

The FCC granted Tribunea permanent waiver of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule in Chicago allowing common ownership of WGN(AM), WGN(TV) and the Chicago Tribune.

The decision essentially continues waivers it granted to Tribune in 2007 when the agency approved the transfer of control of Tribune to the Zell Group. Tribune subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

The commission found that the reorganized Tribune has met the burden for justifying a permanent waiver of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule. The commission approval of the waiversclears the way for the transfer of the station licenses and the emergence of the company from bankruptcy.

Commissioner Robert McDowell was pleased with the decision, saying the Media Bureau “is correct to reinstate Tribune’s waivers of the obsolete newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban. The outdated ban itself should be eliminated because the record indicates that it is likely undermining the public interest on several levels.” 

Tribune was also granted temporary waivers in four other markets: New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Hartford-New Haven.

Commissioner Ajit Pai said he would have given Tribune permanent waivers in the four additional markets, but is still pleased with the decision. “It facilitates the company’s exit from bankruptcy, grants Tribune a permanent waiver in the Chicago market, and allows the company to maintain its newspaper-broadcast combinations in the four other markets so that they may be examined under the new rule we are likely to adopt later this year.”

As we’ve reported, the chairman has circulated to his fellow commissioners a proposal to relax the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules, includingeliminating outdated prohibitions on newspaper-broadcast and TV-radio cross ownership.