The decision announced Wednesday puts Nexstar one step away from owning "Chicago's Very Own" WGN-Channel 9 and WGN 720-AM, and becoming one of the largest broadcasting companies in the country with more than 200 stations covering 39 percent of U.S. households.
To comply with ownership limits, Dallas-based Nexstar agreed to divest stations in 13 markets.
“Without the required divestitures, Nexstar’s merger with Tribune threatens significant competitive harm to cable and satellite TV subscribers and small businesses,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement. “I am pleased, however, that we have been able to reach a resolution of the Division’s concerns, thanks in part to the parties’ commitment to engage in good faith settlement talks from the outset of our investigation.”
The deal now awaits approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which could act within weeks if not days.
Gary Weitman, senior vice president of corporate relations for Tribune Media, declined to comment Wednesday.
The relative speed of regulatory approval for the Nexstar deal stands in stark contrast to the 2017 bid for Tribune Media by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which crashed and burned under scrutiny by the Justice Department and FCC.
Sinclair is still facing an FCC investigation into whether the Maryland-based company misled the government during its prolonged merger attempt with Tribune.
Here is the text of a memo to employees from Peter Kern, CEO of Tribune Media:
Late yesterday, we got word that the U.S. Department of Justice has tentatively approved our transaction with Nexstar Media Group, subject to Nexstar’s divestitures to Scripps and TEGNA announced earlier this spring. While we are pleased with this important step forward, the transaction still needs the approval of the Federal Communications Commission before the regulatory process is concluded. We remain confident that we can close the transaction before the end of the third quarter.
With the closing drawing near, I’m sure you have a number of questions about what becoming part of another company means for you, your job and your benefits. TEGNA has begun communicating benefits information to employees at those stations it expects to acquire from Nexstar, and Scripps will begin doing the same soon. Our communications and HR teams have tried to anticipate as many of your questions as possible and have some answers ready. Please take some time to review the attached Q&A document, which contains more details about what’s ahead. The Q&A will also be posted on our intranet, TribLink, and you should feel free to contact your local HR representative for more information.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress in the days ahead.
Thank you again,
Wednesday's comment of the day: Carol Marin: I've known, loved and respected Peggy [Kusinski] for years but had no idea of the Twitter trolls obsessing over one mistake in an otherwise stellar career. Thanks to Barry Rozner for his elegant telling of this painful story and thanks to Peggy (and Barry) for sharing their grief at the loss of loved ones. It demonstrates importance of authentic reporting by two gifted reporters. Many thanks to them both.