Last Thursday, activists congregated in front of the FCC to deliver more than 670,000 petition signatures opposing the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group’s takeover of Tribune Media.
Then on Monday, after more than a year of paving a gilded path to approval for the merger, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did the unthinkable and shocked us all by announcing he was pressing pause on the deal and sending it to a judge for review.
On Wednesday, Sinclair tried to save the transaction by announcing two station divestitures, and still the FCC voted unanimously to send it to a hearing.
On Thursday, the FCC released a hearing designation order that made it clear that the deal is 99.99 percent dead. The order sheds light on Sinclair’s deception and on how the company has used sham transactions to make its deal look benign. (Free Press has criticized Sinclair for its deceitful practices for years.)
Finally, after harming the public in decision after decision, Pai has done something we can actually thank him for. Has he found his integrity? Seen the light? We aren’t sure, but what we do know is that hundreds of thousands of people from around the country are not OK with this merger. In fact, a lot of what is happening now is thanks to the public outcry and the ongoing activism.
Last week’s petition delivery included signatures collected by Free Press, the ACLU, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Demand Progress and MPower Change.
Representatives from Free Press, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Media Matters and the National Hispanic Media Coalition arrived at the FCC before the agency’s monthly open meeting began with 12 boxes of petitions, one bullhorn, a banner, signs and a digital billboard parked across the street in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building.
The billboard played Deadspin’s viral video of Sinclair news anchors reading from the same propaganda script, John Oliver’s segment on Sinclair and Media Matters’ video on Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn’s horrible must-run commentaries, which recently included a segment where he claimed that coverage of families separated from their children at the border “was overblown.” (That’s right, because separating children as young as eight months old is no big deal, Boris.)
Free Press recorded a livestream of the activists chanting and talking about why this merger is a bad deal for our nation. Hours after the activists had left the digital billboard was still parked across from the FCC playing the videos; even the lunch crowd could not escape it.
Sinclair — also known as Trump TV for its pro-White House propaganda — is infamous for broadcasting hate and fear mongering via its Islamophobic Terrorism Alert Desk segments and requirement that its 191 local TV stations air hateful “must-run” commentaries sent from company headquarters in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
The icing on the cake is the fact that Sinclair is already the largest TV-station owner in the country; if the merger somehow survives the FCC’s recent actions Sinclair would have the power to broadcast to 72 percent of U.S. households.
The power the media wields in shaping perceptions of communities is so great, and allowing a company like Sinclair to get even bigger would misinform and harm a huge swath of the country in grave ways. This is why we’re continuing the fight to shut down Sinclair’s takeover of Tribune.
We don’t want our local stations broadcasting Sinclair’s Islamophobic, racist, xenophobic, extremist propaganda. We don’t want our local newscasters reading scripts sent from Sinclair headquarters. We want independent local news coverage that matters to our communities.
Thanks to the public outcry the pressure is on and Free Press will keep fighting this merger until it’s gone for good. Donate today to help stop mega-mergers and rein in Sinclair.