U.S. House Speaker raises 'serious concerns' about $5.4 bln Tegna deal

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone on Thursday raised serious concerns about the proposed $5.4 billion acquisition of U.S. broadcaster Tegna Inc.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked investment firm Standard General to produce further information about its takeover bid for the broadcast news company that manages 64 stations in 51 U.S. markets.

"We are concerned that this transaction would violate the FCC’s mandate by restricting access to local news coverage, cutting jobs at local television stations, and raising prices on consumers," the two Democrats wrote to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

They asked her "to fully examine the concerns raised by public comments – and shared by many of our colleagues in the Congress – about this proposed transaction, consistent with the applicable laws and regulations."

A spokesperson for Rosenworcel did not immediately comment.

Tegna in February agreed to be acquired by Standard General in a $5.4 billion all-cash deal that would take the company private.

Standard General "has consistently confirmed that its plans for post-closing Tegna do not involve station-level layoffs," the company said in a statement to Reuters last week.

Tegna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Standard General, which is Tegna's third-largest shareholder, had nominated four members to the company's board in 2020, arguing the stock had underperformed and that changes were needed.

The FCC, which had asked for other additional information in June, said applicants were expected to respond to the information request before an Oct. 13 deadline.

The Democrats also asked if the deal would result in higher TV prices for consumers, citing the complex nature of the proposed transaction.

"The proposed new owners of Tegna could immediately charge higher fees to pay TV providers, which may in turn be passed on to pay TV consumers," the lawmakers said. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Bill Berkrot)