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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said Monday he had "serious concerns" about the purchase of Tribune Media-owned TV stations by Sinclair Broadcast Group. He said he was moving to refer the case to an administrative law judge to vet outstanding issues with the deal.

Why it matters: This is a potentially lethal obstacle for a deal that proved controversial because it would increase the reach of the conservative Sinclair network. Pai is a Republican appointee, and the Justice Department has also been looking at the deal.

What he's saying: "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," Pai said. "When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction."

Key context: Critics of various ideological stripes raised concerns about the way Sinclair could stay involved with some of the stations it planned to sell to get the deal approved.

Opponents of the deal praised the FCC's move. "Today’s announcement is welcome," said Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "With this hearing designation order, the agency will finally take a hard look at [Sinclair's] proposed merger with Tribune. This is overdue and favoritism like this needs to end."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

3 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. on Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest hours later, per AP.