WASHINGTON — Free Press on Thursday called out the Sinclair Broadcast Group for failing to explain how its proposed takeover of Tribune Media would comply with federal statutes and regulations designed to limit broadcast media consolidation, promote local news coverage and protect the public interest.
In comments submitted to the FCC, Free Press explained that the right-leaning broadcast conglomerate has shown little to no interest in complying with existing rules. Moreover, the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai is intent on clearing all obstacles to the proposed $3.9 billion merger, which, if approved, would create a broadcast giant that controls more than 233 local-TV stations reaching 72 percent of the country’s population.
The Free Press filing notes that the transaction would still violate federal statutes even if the FCC changed every rule on the books that is within the agency’s power to dismantle. Sinclair did not adequately respond to an FCC request for clarification of its plans, including a request to explain how it would divest broadcast holdings to comply with existing media-ownership limits, and a request to elaborate on its vague promise to increase local news coverage.
Free Press’ filing is available at https://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/sinclair_additional_comments_free_press_filing.pdf
Free Press Policy Analyst Dana Floberg made the following statement:
“Sinclair’s refusal to provide any meaningful answers to questions about its proposed takeover of Tribune Media is shocking. But the sad reality is that to get this deal done, it seems that the company doesn’t need to respond appropriately — not when Chairman Pai is bending over backwards to accommodate the creation of a Trump-friendly media giant.
“To pave the way for this deal, Pai has proposed changes to the FCC’s longstanding merger-review guidelines, moved to rewrite media-ownership limits, reinstated the obsolete UHF discount that allows conglomerates to undercount the percentage of people they reach, and eliminated a rule requiring broadcasters to have studios in or near the communities they serve.
“It’s clear from its filing that Sinclair has zero interest in complying with the ownership rules or serving the public. Instead of moving to destroy local media, the FCC should acknowledge that such media consolidation harms communities and undermines responsive local journalism.
“Unfortunately, Chairman Pai has embraced several Orwellian notions put forth by his friends at Sinclair. He believes that the path to more diversity is fewer voices and viewpoints; the path to more competition is fewer competitors; and the path to more localism is greater distance from the communities broadcasters are licensed to serve.
“With its latest filing, Sinclair has continued its pattern of evasion and doublespeak. It’s failed to respond fully and faithfully to the FCC’s legal questions, just as it’s routinely failed to lay out sufficient information regarding the proposed transaction. The FCC must not reward this deception by approving a deal that would harm local communities and worsen local news and information.”