×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Justice Department Investigating Broadcasters Over Ad Sales Communications

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating whether communications between advertising teams at TV station groups like Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Company violated antitrust laws, a source familiar with the probe confirmed to Variety.

The Justice Department’s investigation, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, grew out of the Antitrust Division’s examination of Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune Co., the source said. The $3.9 billion deal, which would create a broadcast giant with more than 200 stations, is now in doubt, after the FCC voted last week to send the merger to an administrative law judge for review.

A spokesman for Tribune declined to comment. A Sinclair spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment, but earlier told the Journal, “It is our policy not to comment on a potential investigation. It is our understanding that this is not specific to Sinclair, but focuses on the larger broadcast industry.”

A spokesman for the Justice Department had no comment.

At issue is whether communication between advertising sales teams led to higher rates for advertising spots.

The Justice Department never gave the green light to Sinclair’s merger, despite speculation that approval was imminent.

Sinclair’s merger with Tribune faces an Aug. 8 deadline for either side to walk away from the deal. If they proceed with their merger plans, they would likely face months, if not a year, of proceedings before the administrative judge. Other companies who have faced such a prospect have abandoned their plans.

The FCC contends that Sinclair may have misrepresented its plans to divest stations as a way to comply with media ownership rules. The commission is asking the judge to determine whether a series of proposed station sales were in fact “sham” transactions to skirt the rules.

Sinclair has denied that it misled the FCC. A spokesman said last week, “at no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis.”

More Politics

  • Devin Nunes

    Devin Nunes Files $250 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Twitter

    U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday, alleging that he has been the victim of hundreds of hate-filled tweets. The suit also takes aim at Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has attacked Nunes on Twitter, and the anonymous accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Peter Jackson: New Zealanders Stand 'United in Our Love' in Wake of Mosque Attacks

    “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson said Saturday that he and his fellow New Zealanders “stand united in our love and support for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters” in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left at least 49 people dead. “New Zealanders are devastated,” Jackson [...]

  • Steven Mnuchin

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Grilled Over Interest in Wife's Production Company

    WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was asked in a Senate hearing about a continued potential interest in Stormchaser Films, the production company founded by his wife, Louise Linton. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a hearing on Thursday that the concern is that “there has been [...]

  • Police keep watch at a park

    At Least 49 Killed in Terrorist Attack on Two New Zealand Mosques

    Armed attacks Friday on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed at least 49 people and injured dozens of others in what authorities called an act of terrorism. Four people – three men and one woman – were in custody Friday evening, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. One of them, reported to be [...]

  • Anti-Brexit remain in the European Union

    British Parliament Decides to Ask for Delay to Brexit

    The British Parliament has voted to ask for a delay to the U.K.’s exit from the European Union in a bid for more time to get squabbling lawmakers behind a deal on the terms of the withdrawal. The U.K. is currently due to leave the E.U. on March 29, but Thursday evening’s 412-202 vote in [...]

  • President Donald Trump listens to a

    N.Y. Appeals Court Rules Trump Can't Avoid Summer Zervos' Defamation Suit

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is not immune from a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, even as his lawyers argued that the case should at least be deferred until the end of his term, a New York appeals court ruled on Thursday. Trump’s attorneys had argued that the Supremacy Clause of [...]

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb.

    Beto O'Rourke Announces 2020 Presidential Bid

    WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke announced on Thursday that he is running for president in 2020, saying that the “challenges we face are the greatest in living memory.” He and his wife posted a video to launch the campaign. I am running to serve you as the next president. The challenges we face are the greatest [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content