Craig has led Free Press and Free Press Action Fund since 2011. For more than a decade, he has been a leader in major campaigns to safeguard Net Neutrality, stop media consolidation, oppose unchecked surveillance, defend public media and sustain quality journalism. He works in Washington and speaks often to the press and the public on media and technology issues. He has written for The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Hill, MSNBC, Politico, The Progressive, The Seattle Times, Slate and many other outlets. Before joining Free Press, he was an investigative reporter for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch and the managing editor of In These Times magazine. He is the editor of two books, Appeal to Reason: 25 Years of In These Times and Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
While Nexstar doesn’t carry the same baggage that dogged Sinclair, the specter of one group owning 216 local-TV stations has raised the ire of public-interest groups.
If approved, the deal would make Irving, Texas-based Nexstar the largest local-TV broadcaster in the country, with 216 stations.
WASHINGTON — On Monday, Texas-based Nexstar Media Group announced plans to acquire Tribune Media for $6.4 billion, including debt. If approved by regulators, the proposed merger would make Nexstar the largest local-TV station owner in the United States.
Nexstar Media Group already controls 174 stations in 100 markets. Tribune controls 42 local stations, with outlets in major markets including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The two broadcasters have stations that overlap in 15 local markets. The merger would create an entity whose actual audience reach exceeds 72 percent, far higher than the congressional and FCC limits on national media ownership.
Nexstar’s move follows the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s failed bid to acquire Tribune, a proposal that met with widespread public resistance as well as skepticism from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which vet all broadcast mergers of this scope and scale.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“Nexstar should have learned from the spectacular failure of the Sinclair-Tribune deal. The public wants more local choices, not an even bigger chain. Viewers want their local news delivered by reporters who live in their communities, produced by newsrooms located nearby — and not the cookie-cutter journalism that’s the trademark of massive media conglomerates.
“Regulators should realize that big media is bad for local news. When Nexstar executives boast of economies of scale and synergies, they’re really talking about laying off local journalists, having fewer reporters competing for scoops, and seeing the same stories and voices repeated on multiple channels.
“Hopefully the FCC’s rejection of Sinclair’s attempt to buy up these same Tribune stations shows the agency’s newfound understanding of the need for more independent voices and local choices for news — and a rejection of its earlier consolidation-at all-costs policies. The Sinclair deal’s demise should serve as a guide to rejecting the Nexstar proposal. There’s an opportunity for the FCC to embark on a new path, and not simply serve up Tribune’s local stations to another giant conglomerate.”