Watchdog Group Recommends FCC Deny Tribune, Sinclair Broadcast Media Deal

Allied Progress, a consumer watchdog group, opposes a $3.9 billion deal that would permit Sinclair Broadcast Group to acquire Tribune Media Co. On Monday, the group requested the Federal Communications Commission to deny the deal.

The group submitted a letter to the FCC, questioning whether such a deal would serve the public’s best interest. If the deal were approved, it would create the largest, single operator of local broadcast stations in the nation. Sinclair, a Hunt Valley-based broadcast media company, announced plans to acquire Tribune Media, which consists of 42 local news stations, in May. Sinclair currently owns 191 local news stations. The deal would bring the ownership count to 233 stations.

“This level of ownership is unprecedented and would violate the national ownership cap,” Allied Progress’s Executive Director Karl Frisch said in the letter. “Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune Media would result in less competition, fewer local program options and higher costs for consumers.”The planned acquisition has been described as a prime opportunity for Sinclair to improve content by sharing news and networking stations. Since the FCC recently made the decision to relax station ownership rules, the deal could very well be approved.

In 2014, Tribune Co. spun off its publishing and broadcasting divisions into two separate companies. The broadcast portion of the company became known as Tribune Media, the remaining was formed as Tribune Publishing, which owns The Baltimore Sun. In 2016, it was renamed tronc Inc.

Sinclair’s Executive Chairman David Smith said, the deal “would create a leading media platform that ensures a free and local television model can thrive.”

DISH Network, Public Knowledge and the American Cable Association are also opposing the merger. These groups filed a motion with the FCC, seeking more time for public comment and addition information, on July 12. On August 3, the FCC denied the motion.

Last week, Chris Ripley, Sinclair president and CEO, said he believed the acquisition will close by December, as everything is on track.

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