You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sinclair-Tribune Merger Opponents Warn of ‘Excessive, Unbalanced Market Power’

A coalition of TV and media industry entities is urging the FCC to reject Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, arguing that the combination would give Sinclair a dangerous level of power over the local TV marketplace.

Today marks the deadline set by the FCC for the initial round of public comments in opposition to the merger agreement reached in May. The deal would give Sinclair control of more than 200 stations nationwide, expanding the Baltimore-based station owner’s presence to the nation’s largest TV markets for the first time.

Executives from the American Cable Association, which represents smaller cable operators, Common Cause, the Competitive Carriers Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association held a conference call Monday morning to outline their grave concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

The executives are urging the FCC to reject the merger outright on the grounds that Sinclair would have what America One News Network president Charles Herring called “excessive, unbalanced market power” over many players in the media biz.

Michael Copps, former FCC commissioner and now an advisor to Common Cause, sounded the alarm about the potential for Sinclair to force cost cuts on the news operations at its local stations. He noted that past broadcast mergers have lead to “wholesale firings of journalists so that behemoths can finance these ridiculous transactions.” He also raised the specter of “Wall Street expectations superseding consumer needs.”

Herring argued that Sinclair’s clout would allow them to push for higher retransmission consent rates for their local TV stations, which would raise programming costs and make it harder for MVPDs to carry independent channels such as America One, a conservative news network. Sinclair already has a reputation for driving hard bargains with MVPDs for carriage deals. Herring said the Tribune deal would only make it worse for independent channels.

“They’re able to ask for ask for excessive rates currently for their broadcast services. That raises prices for the consumer and consumes programming budgets, preventing independent sources of programming from being able to complete deals with MVPDs for the fees needed to sustain themselves,” Herring said.

Sinclair declined to comment.

Participants on the call agreed that there was no way for the FCC to impose conditions on the merger to mediate what they see as the harm done if Sinclair and Tribune were combined. Herring and others pointed to the lack of debate about the changes to FCC media ownership rules that are expected to be pursued under FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Earlier this year, the FCC moved to reverse a recent ownership rule related to TV stations that paved the way for the Sinclair-Tribune combo. The reinstatement of the FCC’s “UHF discount” is being challenged in court.

“It violates the law and it violates the public interest,” said ACA president Matthew Polka of the Sinclair-Tribune deal. “This is a group of very diverse voices saying this merger is bad for consumers and bad for the public interest.”

Under the FCC’s deal review timeline, Sinclair and Tribune have until Aug. 22 to reply to the opposition comments. Replies to the Sinclair-Tribune responses are due by Aug. 29.

Satcaster Dish Network, which has tangled with Sinclair in the past over retransmission consent deals, also filed a petition Monday urging the FCC to reject the deal. Dish’s filing cited the potential for the enlarged Sinclair to raise MVPD costs for consumers by pushing for high retrans fees and the “systematic assault against local content” by what Dish described as “centrally produced content” dictated by Sinclair’s corporate priorities.

The Sinclair-Tribune merger has drawn public scrutiny and media attention because it would heighten Sinclair’s status as the largest TV station in the country. The company’s long track record of promoting conservative viewpoints in its newscasts has drawn harsh criticism that the merger would expand the company’s influence at a time of great cultural and political division.

As of Monday evening, the FCC has received 154 comments in opposition to the merger, many from individuals such as James Hyder of Las Vegas, who wrote: “The consolidation of media outlets is contrary to the best interests of the country, democratic process, and freedom of speech.”

Margie Peterson of Dexter, Mich., reflected the politically charged concerns around the deal in her comment: “VEHEMENTLY Opposed to state run propaganda TV!! We are not a dictatorship!!!”

Kathleen Hammond of Boulder, Colo., cited her concern about the size of the enlarged Sinclair: “Do not allow more consolidation of TV station ownership. Sinclair already owns too many stations. Independent stations need to retain their independence.”

More TV

  • adidas game of thrones

    5 New 'Game of Thrones' Collaborations Coming in Time for the Final Season

    Some of the biggest lifestyle brands in the world are jumping on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon this spring, hoping to capitalize on the fandom and popularity of the HBO hit, as it enters its eighth and final season. From sneakers to spirits, these officially-licensed collaborations extend the characters and colors of the show beyond [...]

  • Nicole Richie

    Nicole Richie Joins Fox Comedy Pilot 'Richard Lovely'

    Nicole Richie has been cast in a series regular role in the Fox single-cam comedy pilot “Richard Lovely.” The project follows Richard Lovely (Thomas Lennon), the disgruntled author of the best-selling children’s book series, “Mr. Mouse.” He doesn’t hate children, but rather just everything about them. After a publicity fiasco involving an unexpectedly savvy 9-year-old [...]

  • Lachlan Murdoch

    New Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch Announces All Employees to Receive Stock in Company

    The new standalone entity Fox Corp. held a town hall on Thursday, just over a day after the official closing of the 21st Century Fox-Disney merger. Fox Corp. chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch led the meeting, at which sources say he announced that all employees would receive stock in the new company. The amount of [...]

  • Deadwood

    'Deadwood' Movie Drops First Trailer, Premiere Date

    HBO is taking fans back to Deadwood. Nearly 13 years after the hit Western series ended, HBO Films has released the first look at “Deadwood: The Movie.” The film will premiere on the network on May 31. Series regulars Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker and John Hawkes will reprise their roles in the film, [...]

  • Jeaninne Pirro

    Fox News Will Keep Jeanine Pirro Off Schedule for Another Week

    “Justice With Judge Jeanine,” the Saturday-night opinion show led by Jeanine Pirro, will be off the Fox News schedule for a second week in the wake of remarks she made about a Muslim congresswoman. The network’s online schedule shows that it will run another repeat of the documentary series “Scandalous” in its place Saturday night [...]

  • Drew Goddard

    Drew Goddard Inks Exclusive Overall Deal With 20th Century Fox TV

    Writer, director and producer Drew Goddard has signed an exclusive, multiyear overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television, under which he will write, create, direct and develop new TV series for the studio across all platforms. Goddard’s deal, announced by Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden, is the first to close since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content