Heat’s off in Miami

Trib likely won't have to divest TV station

WASHINGTON — The Tribune Company no longer faces a March 22 deadline for selling its Miami TV station under an agreement the broadcaster has tentatively reached with the Federal Communications Commission, confirmed sources with first-hand knowledge of the deal.

Under the deal signed by Tribune officials and the FCC’s general Counsel Christopher Wright, the company will be allowed to hold on to WDZL Miami while the agency reviews its ban on owning a newspaper and TV station in the same market.

The Tribune had been forced to chose between the station and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, which by FCC definitions are located in the same market.

Tribune execs have already indicated that they will sell the station rather than the newspaper. The station was acquired by Tribune when it bought Renaissance Communications last year for $1.1 billion. The FCC approved the Renaissance deal last year on the condition that the broadcast company spin off one of its two Miami properties. Tribune lost a federal lawsuit in which it tried to force the FCC to back down on its order to sell either the station or the property.

But in the face of political pressure from Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R Ariz.) and House Telecommunications Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R La.) the FCC has agreed to extend its temporary waiver to the cross-ownership ban.

The agreement is now being reviewed by the FCC’s five commissioners, but it is unlikely to be scuttled, since it has already been endorsed by the agency’s general counsel.

If the FCC ultimately decides to uphold its newspaper/TV cross-ownership ban, Tribune will be given an additional six months to divest the station.

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