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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Sinclair Broadcast Group floated a plan to divest two Texas television stations in an attempt to salvage its proposed merger with Tribune Media, which Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai designated for an administrative-law hearing on Monday due to “serious concerns” about the transaction.

Pai’s Monday statement suggests that the divestitures Sinclair had previously proposed would be sent to a hearing because, in the chairman’s words, the “evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Sinclair's latest minor makeover of its mega-merger with Tribune doesn’t look any better for the American public. This company has been misleading the FCC for years with front groups and shady arrangements to control local TV stations, undercut competition and evade FCC rules.

“Chairman Ajit Pai did the right thing on Monday when he put the brakes on this deal. He has the bipartisan support of his colleagues, and should release the order he circulated now that he has enough votes to adopt it.

“The FCC also has the backing of hundreds of thousands of people who have written the agency to protest the merger. Some paper-shuffling from Sinclair is no reason to change course. Stopping this merger is the right thing to do.

“The shell-company spin-offs in this deal are reportedly what led the FCC to send the proposed merger to an administrative-law judge. Sinclair has dozens of identical shell operations in numerous markets around the country. If the new ones were improper, so are all the existing ones. Sinclair is in violation of the FCC’s rules, and no amending this application can fix that."

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