FCC Approves Tribune Co. Bid to Transfer Print/TV Ownership (Updated)

FCC approves Tribune's bid to transfer ownership of its newspaper/TV station holdings, which will move it closer to emerging from bankruptcy

The FCC on Friday cleared the way for Tribune Co. to emerge from bankruptcy by allowing the owner of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV to transfer ownership of its newspaper/TV station holdings in five markets to a new owner.

But in four of the markets — including Los Angeles — the new owners may have to seek FCC waivers to continue holding the combined media properties for more than a year, according to the FCC’s order.

At the same time, the FCC approved a permanent waiver for the new company to continue owning WGN-TV and the Tribune in the company’s hometown of Chicago.

“We are extremely pleased with today’s action by the FCC,”  Eddy Hartenstein, left, Tribune's chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This decision will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks.”

With the FCC’s new waivers, the company can now pursue a court-approved bankruptcy plan that would give control of the company to its largest lenders — including JPMorgan Chase and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

In other Tribune news Friday, several media outlets — including the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune — citing unnamed sources reported that television executive Peter Ligouri would likely be named the new company's CEO replacing Hartenstein but not until a new board of directors is chosen. Tribune company spokespersons declined to comment on the reports.

The Chicago-based Tribune, which owns 23 TV stations, has been mired in bankruptcy proceedings for almost four years in the wake of real-estate baron Sam Zell’s borrowing of billions of dollars to take the company private in 2007.

Special consideration for the Tribune plan was required by the agency because FCC rules generally prohibit transactions that would continue common ownership of a TV station and daily newspaper in the same market.

Also Read: Peter Ligouri May Become Tribune CEO (Report)

Waivers were issued to allow Tribune to jointly own the combined newspaper-broadcast operations in the first place.

The FCC also said that if the agency — as widely expected — loosens its newspaper-broadcast crossownership prohibition in the future, the new owners of Tribune may be able to get new waivers to continue owning all of the combinations permanently.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is believed to be recommending that the agency loosen the newspaper-TV station cross-ownership prohibition for all media companies, not just Tribune, at least in the nation’s 20 largest markets.

Genachowski is also said to be recommending that the agency eliminate altogether the prohibition barring common ownership of a radio station and daily newspaper in the same market.