Trump Appointee Finally Wakes Up, Is Skeptical of Sinclair’s Divestment Scheme
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For months, consumer advocacy organization Allied Progress has opposed the Sinclair/Tribune merger on the grounds that it would create the largest monopoly in local television news history and that promises made by the company to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it would divest certain stations to fall in line with existing law, were nothing more than a scheme to maintain control by selling these stations to close business associates and then loading them up with Sinclair programming. Today, in a statement issued by Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman indicated he agrees with that conclusion – a development that may doom the proposed merger which company executives had initially hoped to see approved by the end of last year.
“Sinclair has a long track record of taking over respected stations, gutting local news coverage that communities rely on, and poisoning broadcasts with a partisan political agenda experts have called propaganda. When Sinclair has been forced to sell stations during previous mergers, it has routinely sold them to family and friends and then signed agreements to control the programming on those stations. The FCC is right to call out this scheme,” said Karl Frisch, Executive Director of Allied Progress.
He continued, “Chairman Pai and some of his FCC colleagues have gone to great lengths to help Sinclair monopolize the local television news industry. They have swept aside longstanding FCC policy and advanced a number of rules changes tailor-made for Sinclair’s benefit. This surprising development is a step in the right direction and it could prove fatal to the proposed merger.”
Statement from FCC Chairman Pai:
“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction. The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues. For these reasons, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would designate issues involving certain proposed divestitures for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.”
Allied Progress received nationwide headlines this Spring when it aired ads critical of the media giant on its own stations.
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