WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, yesterday, Chicago Tribune columnist Robert Reed penned a scathing column slamming Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed takeover of former Chicago Tribune parent company Tribune Media.
Reed argues the merger “doesn’t pass the smell test,” and could hurt “customers, employees and suppliers” in markets across the country – including in the Tribune’s home market of Chicago, the third largest in the nation according to Nielsen.
Reed’s column follows Tribune writer Robert Channick’s in-depth report on how Chicagoans would lose local control of WGN-TV, the city’s flagship local news station for nearly a century.
It’s a big corporate deal that just doesn’t pass the smell test.
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Although its backers are hoping for fast-track approval, Sinclair’s buyout of Tribune Media should not be endorsed by regulators. If approved, this arrangement will spawn a media behemoth that’s capable of crippling competition and weakening the broadcast franchises that millions of consumers depend upon for local news, information and entertainment.
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Free TV is a good thing, but anytime a company starts yapping about “synergies” it’s often the customers, employees and suppliers that take it on the chin.
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The bulked-up company will also be under great pressure to boost earnings, so it is conceivable Sinclair management will chop costs with a vengeance by consolidating, or outright dumping, homegrown news, weather, sports or other programming.
That’s not a winning formula for local, diverse and independent television content — an approach that is the best way to serve hometown communities.
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What’s undoubtedly making this media deal more problematic is Sinclair’s hard-right tilt, which manifests itself in conservative commentaries and stories that management insists its stations carry on a recurring basis.
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Hundreds of stations, including “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-TV, along with their viewers and customers, will suffer the consequences of this troubling agreement.
That’s why this deal just doesn’t smell right.
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