Sinclair Chief: If I Could “Wish for Anything” It Would Be “Final Consolidation” of Local Stations

Deadspin Video Illustrated Problem with Sinclair’s Towering Control Over Nearly 200 Stations and Need to Stop Proposed Tribune Merger

But Beyond Tribune, Sinclair Sees Itself “Forever Expanding – Like the Universe” and a Future with as Few as Two Local News Owners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, following several days of coverage surrounding the proposed Sinclair/Tribune merger thanks to a viral video from Deadspin that exposed the problem with the media giant’s grip on so many local stations, consumer watchdog organization Allied Progress pointed out the company has never been shy about its ultimate goal: a “final consolidation” of the local news industry leaving complete control over local stations in the hands of as few as two companies.

The Sinclair/Tribune merger isn’t dinner – it’s the appetizer. The company’s chairman David Smith won’t be content until his singular wish of the local news industry’s ‘final consolidation’ is complete. That’s a frightening prospect,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress. He continued, “There isn’t a viral video long enough to demonstrate the type of power Sinclair would have to push its partisan political agenda into all of our homes if the company is successful in gobbling up so many stations that only two owners remain.”

Ominous Comments from Sinclair Leadership:

  • Sinclair Chairman David Smith said that if he could “‘wish for anything'” it would include “‘an instantaneous final consolidation of the [broadcast] industry.'” In a 2004 interview, David Smith discussed his “wish list for the future of broadcast television.” “‘If I was going to wish for anything and I could snap my fingers and make it happen […] it would be for an instantaneous final consolidation of the industry, the new television standards and then the over-the-air broadcaster being the dominant delivery system of all relevant media in the marketplace,'” Smith said in the interview. He then posited that this “‘is absolutely doable.'” [Price Colman, “David Smith: Sinclair’s Singular Vision,” TVNewsCheck, 02/21/14]
  • David Smith said, in 1994, that Sinclair was “‘forever expanding — like the universe.'” “‘We’re forever expanding — like the universe,’ Mr. Smith told The Baltimore Sun in 1995. [Sinclair] also operates stations owned by affiliates, some of which are majority owned by the Smith family, pushing up against Federal Communications Commission boundaries on station ownership in individual markets.” [Michael J. de la Merced & Nicholas Fandos, “Fox’s Unfamiliar but Powerful Television Rival: Sinclair,” The New York Times, 05/03/17]
  • Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley told shareholders in August 2017 that “the industry needs to consolidate to two or three large broadcasters, and really just one to two strong local players in each market.” He continued, “in some of the larger and even medium-size markets, you’ve got anywhere from three to five local players, and to us, it doesn’t make sense.” [“Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI) Q2 2017 Results – Earnings Call Transcript“, Seeking Alpha, 08/02/17]
  • David Smith said, in 1994, that he was “‘going to engineer as many LMAs as I can,'” referring to Local Marketing Agreements that allow Sinclair to operate stations they don’t own. “‘I’m going to engineer as many LMAs as I can,’ says David Smith, president of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns indie stations in cities including Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. ‘I figure that’s my best chance of survival in the 500-channel universe of the future.'” [John Dempsey, “WB WEIGHS STATION PLAN; Studio may create own indies in 5th-web race,” Daily Variety, 04/11/94]

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