The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), by its own admission, oversees a severe lack of diversity in broadcast television ownership — and claims to want to counter this status quo.  Yet recently, the FCC took an unprecedented action to thwart a transaction that would create the largest minority-owned, woman-led media group in American history.

The issue is investment firm Standard General’s potential acquisition of media company TEGNA. While it is normal for acquisitions of this kind to undergo a regulatory review period, the process is now completely off the rails. After nearly a year of review, and three different comment periods, the FCC’s Media Bureau designated this transaction for a hearing before an administrative law judge, the first time that the FCC has used this maneuver in an apparent attempt to block an acquisition.

The FCC’s move to delay the transaction could effectively kill it, since the financing deadline for the deal is on May 22.

While there is broad bipartisan support for the merger, the opposition primarily comes from the labor union NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America (CWA), which urged the FCC to reject the acquisition. The CWA’s opposition comments cited the race and gender, respectively, of Standard General’s Managing Partner Soo Kim and Standard Media CEO Deb McDermott, disparaging both:

“The Commission should not conflate the identity of one or two business leaders regarding a transaction that would further consolidate the marketplace with advancing its goals to promote ownership diversity. Conflating the identity of one or two business leaders with the achievement of civil rights objectives is a serious error.”

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The Hill | by Mario H. Lopez