If DOJ Holds Sinclair to Same Standard as AT&T, Merger Could Fail
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) demand that AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN, for the companies’ $85.4 billion merger to proceed, does not bode well for Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media.
In August, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division requested more information from both Sinclair and Tribune regarding their pending merger. Like the AT&T-Time Warner deal, Sinclair’s multi-billion-dollar merger would create an enormous consolidation of media in America. If the Justice Department holds Sinclair to the same standards it has imposed on AT&T, Sinclair’s merger may be in jeopardy.
If, however, President Trump’s DOJ neglects to hold Sinclair to the same or similar standards as AT&T, it will raise serious questions of special treatment and how the administration treats media companies that fall in line versus those who have respect for journalistic independence. President Trump regularly lambasts CNN as “fake news” while favoring Sinclair. In fact, Trump appeared on the first episode of Sinclair’s “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson” in 2015, and appeared for another extended sit-down interview just last weekend.
“The Department of Justice must hold Sinclair to the same standard it has set for AT&T. If the DOJ fails to do so, it can only be seen as blatant favoritism for a company best known for pushing a right-wing, pro-Trump agenda under the facade of journalism,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
He continued, “The DOJ has an obligation to hold all media to the same standard and protect consumers from mergers that consolidate too much power in the hands of any single media company. We need more voices in the media landscape, not fewer.”
Sinclair has built a reputation for pushing Trump-friendly content to its 191 local news stations across the country. Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign member, hosts a “must run” segment called “Bottom Line with Boris Epshteyn” where he regularly regurgitates Trump tweets and talking points. If its bid to merge with Tribune goes through, Sinclair will gain access to 72 percent of U.S. households, placing a chokehold on the local broadcast news market and creating the largest local television news monopoly in American history.