Zell looks for help from Congress

Sam Zell, who is buying the Tribune Co., met with several Democratic leaders on Tuesday, including Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and expressed his concern that federal regulators are moving too slowly in deciding whether or not Tribune can own the same media in the same market, including Chicago.

Tribune needs FCC waivers to keep the properties it has in five markets, including Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Media activists groups have objected, saying that Tribune is concentrating too much power in those markets.

However, Senator Durbin showed support for the deal, saying that he has seen no problems with Tribune’s cross-ownership in the Chicago area, and he says most people in the market feel that they are a good source of news. He also mentioned that the way the public gets its news has changed over the years, with the emergence of the Internet and the proliferation of cable channels.

Durbin wrote a joint letter with Rep. Rahm Enamuel (D-Chicago) urging the FCC to make prompt decision about the sale a month ago. The letter was signed by fourteen other Illinois congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans.

With support from Illinois politicians, the deal stands a much better chance of being approved, also taking in the fact that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin hates the cross-ownership rules, and that CTVglobemedia already owns a newspaper, TV station, and radio stations (just acquired from Chum, Ltd.) in Toronto, with little or no outcry from residents.

Ironically, the media activist groups that oppose the sale are based in Washington D.C. and not in Chicago or Los Angeles, where Tribune owns the affected properties.