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WASHINGTON — According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday night, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether Sinclair Broadcast Group  "engaged in misrepresentation and/or lack of candor" with the agency when it was seeking approval of its $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media Co. in 2018.

Tribune Media withdrew from the proposed merger last August, after the FCC released a Hearing Designation Order (HDO), in which the agency criticized Sinclair for misrepresenting its plan to transfer control of several television stations to shell companies set up by the broadcaster. “The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact ‘sham’ transactions,” according to the HDO.

If the FCC investigation determines that Sinclair did deceive the agency, it can order a hearing on the matter. This process could lead to significant fines or even the loss of broadcast licenses.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Sinclair has been misleading and deceiving the FCC for years, setting up shell companies designed to evade agency limits and trying to undermine any rules that slow its expansion. Sinclair appears to have gotten caught lying to the FCC, forcing its strongest supporters at the agency to back away and oppose its last mega-deal.

“This deception is enough to put Sinclair’s licenses in jeopardy, but there are many other reasons to investigate whether this company should be given so much power over the public airwaves. The company has used its platform to push partisan propaganda and replaced independent outlets with its slanted and centralized content. Sinclair has violated the public trust and misled the FCC, and this hearing could be the first step toward setting things right.

“Hopefully, an FCC investigation will be the start of holding Sinclair and other broadcasters responsible for their misuse of the public airwaves and ending runaway media consolidation that has harmed so many local communities. Possible sanctions against Sinclair, including the loss of broadcast licenses, represents an opportunity to embark on a new path for an agency that has enabled the merge-at-all-costs broadcast industry for far too long.”


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