Tribune Anxiously Awaits Media-Ownership Case

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By: E&P Staff

When a federal appeals court in Philadelphia begins hearing arguments next month on whether the Federal Communications Commission should relax its media cross-ownership rules, Tribune Co. executives will be on pins and needles.

The Chicago-based media giant currently owns newspapers and TV stations in a number of top markets — including Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, Conn., and south Florida. Its holdings in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune and WGN, are exempt from the ban, which has stopped newspaper companies from owning TV stations in the same markets since 1975.

The FCC last June voted to significantly ease the cross-ownership ban in the country’s largest markets, including Tribune strongholds like New York and L.A. Congress has tried to stop the change but has yet to take a final vote. And in September, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia issued a stay, preventing the changes from taking effect until the court begins hearing arguments next month.

The uncertainty over the rule changes has played havoc with Tribune Co.’s plans for amassing more footholds in large cities in the future, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune’s bitter cross-river rival. Until the matter is resolved, the company remains in a bit of a holding pattern, said Shaun Sheehan, a Tribune vice president and its Washington lobbyist.

“It would lift the lingering cloud over Los Angeles and New York — in Chicago we’re grandfathered — Hartford and south Florida,” Sheehan told the Sun-Times. “I want to get rid of this puppy.”

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