T-Mobile Urges FCC to Reject Sinclair-Tribune Deal

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By Kyle Daly

T-Mobile US Inc. is urging the Federal Communications Commission to block Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. from acquiring Tribune Media Co., arguing that Sinclair is likely to fight agency efforts to shift television broadcast signals around the airwaves.

The commission needs to move, or “repack,” broadcast signals to clear certain frequencies for T-Mobile and other buyers of licenses in the FCC’s incentive spectrum auction. T-Mobile contended, in an agency filing posted Aug. 8, that Sinclair is already trying to obstruct the repack, and the combined company would have “substantial leverage” in the process.

Despite that argument, Sinclair is unlikely to face substantial trouble getting the FCC to approve the $3.9 billion acquisition. The commission has already reversed a decision the Democrat-controlled FCC made last year to tighten broadcast ownership limits. The reversal enabled Sinclair to make its bid for Tribune.

T-Mobile is hoping to convince the agency to block the merger by arguing that it would hamper the agency’s effort to repurpose broadcaster airwaves for wireless uses. T-Mobile was the largest bidder in the spectrum auction, coming away with nearly $8 billion worth of spectrum licenses. It wants broadcasters to move quickly off those signals so it can light them up with wireless services.

Sinclair has cautioned in FCC filings, T-Mobile said, that the repack could interfere with broadcasters’ ability to deploy next-generation TV signals offering improved picture and sound, among other features. If Sinclair acquires Tribune, T-Mobile contends, it may use its expanded market power to sabotage the repack. Sinclair could want to do so to speed next-generation signals to market and to use those signals to build out its own web-based direct-to-consumer TV service in competition with telecom companies, T-Mobile said. A Sinclair spokeswoman declined to comment.

Sinclair also owns Dielectric, the nation’s largest television antenna manufacturer; Acrodyne Services, a TV equipment servicing company; and broadcast tower sites. A larger Sinclair also could use those assets to slow the repack, T-Mobile said.

If the FCC declines to block the deal altogether, T-Mobile said it should impose strict conditions that would penalize Sinclair if it does not comply with the commission’s timetable for the TV-signal repack.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

T-Mobile's filing is available at: http://src.bna.com/rtG

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