Files Reply Brief with U.S. Court of Appeals in Response to FCC’s Mendacious Portrayal of Its Process
Notes How FCC Never Expressed Concerns During Review
Following Unanimous SCOTUS Decision Questioning Federal Agency Authority, Standard General Calls on the FCC and Its Commissioners to Follow Its Own Procedural Norms and Put Deal to a Vote
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, Standard General filed a reply brief in response to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The brief highlights in detail how the FCC violated its clear duty to act, consistently refused to engage with the transaction parties, and deliberately moved to kill the transaction without due process and without ever expressing any concerns so that they might be addressed – treatment that no other transaction review has been subjected to by the FCC. Instead of celebrating the creation of the largest minority-owned, female-led broadcast-television company in U.S. history – with widespread and significant support from countless civil rights organizations, legislators from both sides of the aisle, and labor and minority media groups – the FCC has consistently acted disparately towards the applicant. This culminated in the decision to have its Media Bureau, which is run by a member of the FCC Chairwoman’s staff, move to kill the deal without accountability before the Court—and without any vote by the Commissioners.
To ensure the Court is aware of the facts and not misled by the FCC’s mendacious portrayal of its process, Standard General highlighted the timeline of interactions with the FCC since the TEGNA transaction was announced in February 2022. It demonstrates that, over the course of the FCC’s review and since its Media Bureau issued its Hearing Designation Order (“HDO”), due process has been unquestionably denied.
“The FCC has shown that it is content to let the Media Bureau destroy this deal, a course that prevents significant gains for diversity and labor while needlessly depriving the public of the transaction’s innumerable benefits,” said Soo Kim, Founding Partner of Standard General. “The transaction has been put under unprecedented scrutiny, and not once during its nearly year-long review did the Media Bureau raise concerns with the transaction – much less discuss with the transaction parties how such concerns might be addressed. We continue to urge the Court to look at the facts and compel the FCC to follow its own procedural norms by putting the deal to a vote.”
Timeline of Standard General’s Attempts to Engage the FCC:
Standard General attempted to engage with the FCC to no avail.
- The FCC repeatedly declined Standard General’s offers to meet. Between November 2022 and when the HDO was issued in February 2023, Standard General made 16 attempts to speak with the FCC, but the FCC either refused or ignored every one of those attempts.
- During that time, the FCC met with application opponents (the “opponents”) at least 8 times formally, according to ex-partes filed in the FCC docket.
- The lead opponent, the Newsguild, has also refused to engage with Standard General.
Given that the proposed transaction complies with all FCC ownership rules and precedent and requires no divestitures or waivers, Standard General took the FCC’s lack of any stated concerns or feedback as supporting that the transaction was on track, though moving more slowly than is typical.
In December 2023, Standard General sought to accelerate the review by making a number of unprecedented commitments to proactively address concerns raised by challengers in an effort to demonstrate Standard General’s willingness to compromise. These commitments were made with no feedback from the FCC on the transaction.
These commitments included a binding two-year commitment to TEGNA jobs and an irrevocable waiver regarding any increases in the retransmission fees the stations charge cable and satellite providers.
- These commitments included a binding two-year commitment to TEGNA jobs and an irrevocable waiver regarding any increases in the retransmission fees the stations charge cable and satellite providers.
The FCC is now telling an entirely different story in their April 11, 2023 filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
- The FCC is attempting to say that Standard General “resisted their concerns” and has only made “narrow commitments” that have led to their heightened scrutiny of the transaction.
- The truth is that Standard General never had the opportunity to “resist” their concerns because the FCC never expressed them and refused to engage. During its review, the FCC granted Standard General only one 30-minute session with each of the Commissioners and an hour-long session with the Media Bureau to discuss the applications, during which they provided no feedback. In fact, the April 11th Court filing is the most feedback Standard General has ever received on its applications.
- Claiming that our “narrow” concessions are what led to the lengthy review is the height of dishonesty. The commitments were made only after the transaction became the longest rule-compliant TV group acquisition review in FCC history, and represent unprecedented commitments to supporting local news jobs in an industry where widespread job cuts are routinely announced.
The FCC’s Media Bureau has maneuvered unilaterally, circumventing the full Commission, to effectively kill the transaction. It has done so without affording Standard General a full Commission vote or judicial review by delaying the process beyond the May 22, 2023 financing deadline for the transaction.
In addition, earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiff in a case that will now allow parties to challenge federal agencies, like the FCC, in federal court and outside of the agency’s normal administrative procedures. The SCOTUS ruling elevates Standard General’s standing in Court.
About Standard General
Standard General was founded in 2007 and manages capital for public and private pension funds, endowments, foundations, and high-net-worth individuals. Standard General is a minority-controlled and operated organization. Soo Kim, Standard General’s Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer, is supported by a diverse, highly experienced 17-person team, including seven investment professionals with over 120 years of collective investing experience.
For media inquiries:
Andy Brimmer / Jamie Moser / Jack Kelleher
Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher