FCC seeks more information on proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger

The FCC asked Sinclair Broadcast Group to provide more information about the company’s acquisition of Tribune media, a $3.9 billion deal under review at the agency. FCC Media Bureau chief Michelle Carey sent a letter to Sinclair requesting more data on important issues, including the company’s current and future TV audience reach, and how the company intends to comply with ownership regulations.

“In order for the Commission to review the applications and make the necessary public interest finding under section 310(d) of the Communications Act of 1934,” the letter read, “we require additional information, documents, and clarifications of certain matters discussed in the applications and other information submitted to the Commission.”

The media bureau’s questions get at important topics raised by CWA, NABET-CWA, and TNG-CWA, whose comments opposing the merger said the merged company would violate ownership regulations. “The substantial merger-related harm that would result from a Sinclair-Tribune combination – including massive consolidation in violation of Commission rules, the continued use of JSAs and SSAs to get around media ownership limits, the imposition of central casting to reduce localism and viewpoint diversity, and the associated job loss – simply cannot be resolved by station divestiture,” the comments read. “The Commission should deny the Sinclair-Tribune application.”

In the same week, a group of lawmakers with oversight responsibilities sent a letter to Chairman Pai expressing concern regarding “reports that suggest favorable treatment” of Sinclair from the Chairman. The letter questioned whether the FCC under Pai’s leadership provided preferential treatment for Sinclair and whether Pai or his office had inappropriate coordination with the Trump campaign or administration. “The FCC is an independent agency, and we are sending you this letter amid recent criticism of your commitment to independence as the Chairman of the FCC,” read the letter, signed by Reps. Pallone (D-NJ), Doyle (D-PA), and DeGette (D-CO).

Opposition to the merger has been growing since it was announced and includes groups from across the political spectrum from right-wing media groups like Newsmax and The Blaze to industry groups like the American Cable Association to public interest groups like Common Cause and Free Press.

 

Links:

FCC asks Sinclair for more information on Tribune deal (The Hill, Sept. 15, 2017)

Letter from FCC Media Bureau to Sinclair (FCC, Sept. 14, 2017)

Sinclair to buy Tribune for $3.9 billion (Speed Matters, May 12, 2017)

CWA, NABET, and The NewsGuild join opposition to Sinclair-Tribune merger (Speed Matters, Aug. 31, 2017)

House Members letter to Chairman Pai re: favorable treatment of Sinclair (US House, Aug. 14, 2017)

Opposition to Sinclair-Tribune merger grows on left and right (Speed Matters, Aug. 11, 2017)