FCC Ends Sinclair Probe But Says It May Revisit Conduct Later

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission ended an inquiry into whether Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. misled the agency during a failed merger bid last year, but said it may consider the allegations against the broadcaster in future matters.

Sinclair won dismissal of the proceeding before the agency’s administrative law judge, who in a Tuesday order posted online said a hearing now would be an “academic exercise” because the deal, for Tribune Media Co., was no longer being considered.

Sinclair shares rose $1.33, or 3.6 percent, to $38.07.

The agency had asked the judge to examine “alleged deception” that was “ostensibly aimed at allowing Sinclair to bypass the commission’s multiple ownership limitations.”

“Allegations that Sinclair engaged in misrepresentation and/or lacked candor before the Commission are extremely serious charges that reasonably warrant a thorough examination,” the judge said in the order.

Size Limits

Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune stations collapsed amid acrimony last year after the FCC sent the matter to the administrative law judge for a hearing to consider whether Sinclair misled the agency. At issue was ownership of stations in Chicago and Texas as Sinclair sought to remain under size limits for broadcasters.

Sinclair in an emailed statement said it was pleased. “We continue to maintain that we were completely candid, transparent and honest with the FCC during its review of our proposed acquisition of Tribune Media,” the Cockeysville, Maryland-based company said in the statement.

FCC Administrative Law Judge Jane Halprin said in the order that questions could be raised in a future proceeding.

“Absent a specific transaction or other proceeding to provide context for this unresolved character issue, however, conducting a hearing at this time would not be a prudent use of commission time and resources,” Halprin said.

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