Robservations: FCC blasts Sinclair ‘misrepresentation’ in Tribune deal


Robservations on the media beat:


The Federal Communications Commission officially pushed back on Sinclair Broadcast Group Thursday, citing the Maryland-based company for “misrepresentation and/or lack of candor” in its application to acquire Chicago-based Tribune Media, including WGN-Channel 9 and WGN 720-AM. Strongly questioning whether the $3.9 billion deal would be in the public interest, the FCC voted unanimously to refer the case to an administrative law judge, effectively blowing it up. A key point was the FCC’s concern over Sinclair's scheme to sell WGN to an auto dealer connected to Sinclair chairman David Smith, while maintaining control over the station’s programming, advertising and other operations. “Specifically, we question the legitimacy of the proposed sale of a such a highly rated and profitable station in the nation’s third-largest market to an individual with no broadcast experience, with close business ties to Smith, and with plans to own only the license and minimal station assets,” the FCC order read. “Indeed, one could argue that Sinclair’s proposal to divest what has been described as one of the ‘crown jewels’ of Tribune makes no sense from a business perspective unless that divestiture permitted Sinclair to maintain effective control over the station.” (Here is the link.) Tribune Media said in a statement: “We will be greatly disappointed if the transaction cannot be completed, but will rededicate our efforts to running our businesses and optimizing assets.”

Reese Marcusson

Just short of three months on the job as president and CEO of Window to the World Communications Inc., Sandra Cordova Micek is beginning to put her mark on the parent company of public television WTTW-Channel 11 and classical radio WFMT 98.7-FM. On Thursday Micek announced the departure of Reese Marcusson as chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Marcusson, a 28-year veteran of the company, had served as acting CEO before Micek’s appointment. His last day will be July 31. “Reese’s commitment, knowledge, focus and leadership in the roles of CFO and COO will be missed, and I know you will join me in wishing him success in his future endeavors,” Micek told staff in an email. No word yet on a replacement.

Phil Vettel

After 29 years as Chicago Tribune restaurant critic, Phil Vettel unmasked himself to all the world this week. Since a lot of restaurateurs already knew what he looked liked, Vettel told readers, he decided to drop the incognito act and level the playing field. “Renouncing my anonymity is less of a bold move than it is an acknowledgement of reality,” he wrote. “I still plan to show up unannounced, using pseudonyms for making reservations and paying the bills.”

Paula Faris

Paula Faris, the former Chicago sports anchor, is shifting to a new role at ABC News this fall. After four years as weekend anchor of “Good Morning America” and three years as a co-host of “The View,” she’ll be reporting for “GMA” and other network news programs. “Excited/grateful for the opportunity to cover big stories & talk to the people at the center of them,” she tweeted. Faris joined ABC News in 2012 after six years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.

Bob Sirott and John Records Landecker

If you happen to be up in the wee hours of Saturday night and Sunday morning, you can catch radio legends John Records Landecker and Bob Sirott reminisce about the heyday of rock radio in Chicago and the inspiring influence of the great Dick Biondi. They’ll be interviewed by David Plier at 2:30 a.m. Sunday on Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN 720-AM. The segment also will be posted online at early Sunday morning.

Publicity Club of Chicago

Calendar note for August 8: That’s when the 10 p.m. news stars of ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will headline the monthly luncheon of the Publicity Club of Chicago. Sharing their insights and experiences will be news anchors Alan Krashesky and Cheryl Burton, meteorologist Cheryl Scott and sports anchor Mark Giangreco. I’ll be moderating the discussion. “An Afternoon with the 10 p.m. ABC 7 Eyewitness News Team” will be at Maggiano’s Chicago, 516 North Clark Street. (Here is the link for tickets.)

Thursday’s comment of the day: Marjorie Zawacki Noga: “[Chance the Rapper] is committed to his community and invests in his community. He is a great role model and Chicago is lucky to be the beneficiary.