Sinclair-Tribune Deal Threatens Repack, Wireless Industry Tells FCC

Wireless industry opponents of the Sinclair-Tribune merger tell the FCC the combined entity would not only delay the progress of the television channel repack, but also restrain competition in the mobile broadband market. The Competitive Carriers Association, T-Mobile and NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association, urged the agency to deny the merger or place severe conditions on it, in Petitions to Deny filed this week and examined by Inside Towers.

If the deal is approved, Sinclair would own more than 200 television stations, becoming “the largest broadcast group by a country mile,” according to CEO Christopher Ripley. T-Mobile said the merged entity would have more than 110 stations to be repacked, “making it by far the largest broadcaster engaged” in the post-auction transition. 

Given the “interdependence” of the daisy chains, the order in which the FCC has organized stations to be repacked, “a delay by one station group, or even one station, could jeopardize the entire repacking process,” says T-Mobile. The carrier says the deal must not be approved if the 39-month repack schedule is threatened.

Citing the “urgent need to clear the recently auctioned 600 MHz spectrum for mobile services,” both CCA and T-Mobile say Sinclair “repeatedly” lobbied the Commission to delay the repack. “Practically from the moment the Commission announced plans for the incentive auction, Sinclair sought unsuccessfully to impede it,” wrote T-Mobile. NTCA says the entities have not shown the merger “would, as they attest, serve the public interest.”

The merger would also give Sinclair subsidiary Dielectric up to 90 percent of the TV broadcast antenna market, asserts CCA. Dielectric (see other story, further down) is one of two TV antenna-makers; the other is Electronics Research Inc., which supplies Tribune. CCA says a combined Sinclair-Tribune would allow Dielectric to consolidate its market power and slow the repack by “withholding equipment its rivals need” to build new facilities on their reassigned channels. Dielectric yesterday said it has provided price quotes to 900 TV stations affected by the repack.

August 10, 2017

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