Nexstar wins approval for Tribune Media in latest consolidation

Tribune Media, which owns local stations including WGN, will be sold to Nexstar in a tie-up approved by US regulators creating the largest television operator in the US market (AFP Photo/SCOTT OLSON)

Washington (AFP) - US regulators Monday approved a deal allowing Nexstar Media Group's $6.4 billion deal to buy Tribune Media and become the largest operator of local US television stations.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepted the deal, provided both companies divest from several stations to comply with local television ownership rules.

The transaction marks the latest consolidation in the television sector at a time when consumers are turning increasingly to on-demand and streaming media.

The FCC, which approved the deal on a 3-2 vote, said in a statement the tie-up would "provide several public interest benefits to viewers of current Tribune and Nexstar stations" including access to Nexstar's news bureaus, resulting in cost savings.

But FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks dissented, saying that the deal allowing one firm access to some 60 percent of the US market "runs counter to our fundamental tenets of promoting competition, localism, and diversity."

Tribune previously had reached a deal to be acquired by Sinclair, but the transaction died in August last year after the FCC balked at Sinclair's proposal to address market concentration concerns.

Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge warned the deal would negatively impact local television news.

"The important priority of localism in news was ignored, to the detriment of all of us, not only in our role as consumers but also as participants in our democracy," she said.

Tribune Media was part of a television and publishing empire that broke up in 2014 after a bankruptcy filing, creating two companies, including the newspaper group Tribune Publishing.