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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Administrative Law Judge Jane Halprin issued an order dismissing the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s application to transfer Tribune Media Company’s broadcast licenses to Sinclair. Judge Halprin found that an administrative inquiry would be a purely “academic exercise” since Sinclair withdrew its application in August 2018.

In the order, Halprin also stated that a broad inquiry into whether Sinclair is of fit moral character to “hold any station license ... would be more appropriately considered in the context of a future proceeding in which Sinclair is seeking Commission approval, for example, involving an application for a license assignment, transfer, or renewal.”

“At that time, it may be determined that an examination of the misrepresentation and/or lack of candor allegations raised in this proceeding is warranted as part of a more general assessment of Sinclair’s basic character qualifications to be a Commission licensee,” wrote Judge Halprin, adding, “[h]onesty with the Commission is a foundational requirement for a Commission licensee” and that “providing false statements to the Commission has been a basis for license revocation since the inception of the Communications Act in 1934.”

Free Press Policy Manager Dana Floberg made the following statement:

“The FCC’s administrative law judge could have dismissed the proceeding on procedural grounds without further comment, but instead she issued a strong rebuke regarding Sinclair’s dishonest representations to the FCC, and all but insisted that the agency examine Sinclair’s lack of candor at the next opportunity.

“Free Press is calling on the FCC to examine Sinclair’s dishonesty in early renewal proceedings. If the agency finds that Sinclair lied to the Commission, it should revoke Sinclair’s broadcast licenses and return the public airwaves to broadcasters that will serve their communities and comply with the law and with FCC rules.

“Sinclair has long abused its power to stifle local news, evade media-ownership protections, and spread racist and Islamophobic lies and propaganda on its newscasts. It’s shown time and again that it has zero interest in actually serving the public — and now Sinclair has shown that same blatant disrespect and dishonesty to the FCC. The agency must investigate these apparent misrepresentations and hold Sinclair accountable.”

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