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FCC ruling pushes Tribune toward bankruptcy exit

Updated: December 19, 2012 1:26PM

The Federal Communications Commission granted Tribune Co. a permanent waiver Friday from rules that ban a newspaper publisher from owning broadcast stations in the Chicago market. The agency also granted Tribune temporary waivers in four other cities.

The decision is a prerequisite for Tribune to come out of bankruptcy. The company’s chief executive officer, Eddy Hartenstein, said its emergence from Chapter 11 should be complete in the next several weeks.

The owner of the Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV and radio in Chicago and other media outlets around the country is expected to be sold in pieces by the creditors who are taking it over. The broadcast segment is the most profitable and is widely expected to be split from the newspaper business, although the permanence of the FCC waiver in Chicago suggests a new owner could keep the Tribune-WGN tandem together.

The situation has created anxiety about potential layoffs at Tribune operations. In a statement to employees, Hartenstein said, “There is likely to be a good deal of media speculation about Tribune’s future in the days ahead. Try to ignore it.”

He urged workers to concentrate “on the things we control” and build operational and financial momentum going into 2013.

The Tribune waiver on a so-called cross-ownership ban of media properties also applies in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Hartford, Conn.

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