WASHINGTON — Sinclair Broadcast Group has announced a $985-million deal to purchase nine local TV stations from Allbritton Communications, including both the ABC affiliate and a 24-hour cable news channel in Washington, D.C. If approved, the deal would establish Sinclair in its largest market to date and put the company in control of 149 stations in 76 markets nationwide — reaching more than 38 percent of the nationwide audience. The latest purchase follows Sinclair’s pending deals to buy more than two dozen stations from Barrington Broadcasting, Fisher Communications and Titan Television. The acquisitions must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
"The rapid expansion of Sinclair Broadcast Group — which is poised to double the number of stations it controls nationwide — is unwelcome news for local TV viewers. The company's cookie-cutter approach to local news and repeated use of the airwaves to push a partisan agenda are well known. And the idea that one company should be allowed to control so many stations in so many markets is simply outrageous. What will it take for the FCC to wake up?
"Sinclair has exploited loopholes and laziness at the FCC to build its empire. The FCC needs to scrutinize these proposed deals and stop allowing covert consolidation through shared services agreements that allow Sinclair to run two or even three stations in a single market. In particular, it should require stations Sinclair has indicated it will put up for sale as part of this deal to be sold to independent competitors, not Sinclair front groups.
"Viewers need competing newsrooms and access to a range of viewpoints on local issues. And that means they need the FCC to ditch its rubber stamp and start doing its job to preserve localism, competition and diversity."