AS OPPOSITION MOUNTS, TRUMP’S FCC RIGS THE SYSTEM TO PAVE THE WAY FOR SINCLAIR-TRIBUNE MERGER
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to rollback longstanding media ownership rules that protect against media conglomerates developing monopolistic control over local news. The action is the latest instance of the Trump administration’s FCC helping Sinclair Broadcast Group in their proposed bid to takeover Tribune Media. If the deal goes through it would create a local news monopoly that reaches a staggering 72 percent of all U.S. households. Sinclair, a conservative media company, has close ties to President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“This system is rigged. This was an unprecedented vote by the FCC to change the rules to benefit one company. It’s no wonder members of both the House and Senate are calling for investigations into Chairman Pai’s connections to Sinclair,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Sinclair has a quid pro quo with President Trump and Chairman Pai; in exchange for fawning coverage, the administration is paving the way for this unprecedented merger, ignoring precedent and current law,” continued Frisch.
Advocates and trade associations across the political spectrum oppose Sinclair’s merger with Tribune because of its negative impact on the marketplace and for consumers.
In recent days, members of the House and Senate have called for the FCC inspector general to open an investigation into the “independence and impartiality” of the FCC, citing the agency’s moves to relax rules that benefit Sinclair and its proposed merger with Tribune.
This isn’t the first step the FCC has taken under Pai’s leadership to benefit Sinclair.
Background: Timeline of Recent FCC Rule Changes that Benefit the Sinclair-Tribune Merger
February 3: FCC Rescinds Rules on Local Marketing Agreements
Sinclair has repeatedly used local marketing agreements to skirt FCC duopoly rules. In 2014 the FCC released guidance on the permissible use of these sharing agreements to provide more oversight and prevent companies from using them to skirt ownership rules. In an unprecedented move and with no explanation, the FCC unexpectedly rescinded this guidance in February. Read more about it in this report by consumer law expert Deepak Gupta.
April 20: FCC Reinstates UHF Discount
Without this move the Sinclair-Tribune merger would not be possible. The UHF discount is an archaic rule that allows station owners to only count 50 percent of their audience reach. Even with the discount, the merger would put Sinclair above the 39 percent ownership cap.
On May 8, Sinclair Announces Deal to Purchase Tribune
October 24: FCC Votes to Eliminate Main Studio Rule
According to The Washington Post: “The regulation, which was first adopted almost 80 years ago, requires broadcasters to have a physical studio in or near the areas where they have a license to transmit TV or radio signals. Known as the “main studio rule,” the regulation ensured that residents of a community could have a say in their local broadcast station’s operations.”
On November 16, Sinclair Announces Maryland Headquarters to Double in Size