May 18, 2023

Senator Warren Urges FCC to Block Standard General-Tegna Deal

“Media mergers and acquisitions can result in less diversity and inclusion in the industry, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and eliminating competition for marginalized workers.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, urging the FCC to continue its thorough review of Standard General’s proposed acquisition of Tegna regardless of pressure by supporters of the deal, and to use its statutory authority to block this $5.4 billion deal.

In April 2022, the FCC began reviewing a proposed deal by Standard General and Apollo Global Management (Apollo) to acquire local news broadcast company Tegna for $5.4 billion. Because Apollo already holds a significant stake in Cox Media Group (Cox), a media conglomerate with television stations in nine U.S. markets, this proposed acquisition of Tegna would add several television stations in overlapping markets.

“As I warned in January 2023,  this common ownership will reduce the number of competitors that can place spots on television for advertisers, produce programming for television audiences, and employ workers in the television industry,” wrote Senator Warren. “The deal also risks higher prices for cable, satellite, and other television customers across the nation as a result of increased broadcast television retransmission consent fees.” 

In February 2023, the FCC’s Media Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) referred the case to an administrative law judge for a hearing. When the parties asked the FCC to review the referral, the FCC refused, and the parties subsequently appealed to the D.C. Circuit, asking the court to order the full Commission to rule on the deal. Last month, the court ruled in favor of the FCC and supporters of the merger continued their complaints and asked that the deal proceed to a full Commission vote.

“The FCC’s evaluation of the Standard General-Tegna merger has been consistent with the agency’s legal authority and obligations …,” wrote Senator Warren. “The Bureau acted consistently with agency precedent, which makes clear that the public interest analysis includes consideration of ‘harms to consumer welfare from artificial increases in retransmission fees, and harms to broadcast localism through cuts to local journalism and news staffing.’” 

In the letter, Senator Warren highlights the need for the FCC and other federal agencies to scrutinize mergers and acquisitions for anticompetitive effects – including higher prices, employee layoffs, and potential collusion – as requested by President Biden in his 2021 Executive Order promoting competition in the American economy. Senator Warren has called for the FCC and other federal agencies to review proposed deals with an eye towards effects on diversity, explaining that “economic justice cannot be realized without ensuring that all communities—especially low income and minority communities—are protected from the exploitation and abuse that often accompanies concentrated economic power. “

“I continue to be concerned that a Standard General (Apollo)-TEGNA merger would have negative effects on competition between broadcast television stations for advertisers, prices for television services that retransmit broadcast station programming, and labor,” concluded Senator Warren.  “I appreciate your thorough review of this potential deal and am seeking to better understand the FCC’s review process.”

Senator Warren has long called on administrations to combat market concentration and promote diversity in the media.

  • In January 2023, Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel urging the agency to use its authority under the Communications Act to block hedge fund Standard General’s proposed acquisition of broadcaster Tegna Inc. and promote competition and address increasing consolidation in the media industry.
  • In December 2021, Senator Warren, along with Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and 29 other members of Congress, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter urging the Department of Justice to investigate the proposed $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia for violations of antitrust laws. 
  • On November 11, 2020, Senator Warren published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled: What a Biden-Harris administration should prioritize on its first day. In her op-ed she encouraged the Biden admin to use their existing legal authority to “restore balance and competition by prioritizing strong anti-monopoly protections and enforcement.”