×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Newsmax Calls Sinclair’s Plans to Sell Stations ‘Essentially a Sham’ to Gain Tribune Merger Approval

WASHINGTON — Newsmax, the conservative news outlet, says Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for station sales are a “sham” to gain FCC approval for its proposed  acquisition of Tribune Media.

Newsmax, which has been a critic of the transaction, was responding to a revised merger plan that Sinclair filed last week in which it said it planned to sell Tribune Media’s TV stations in New York, Chicago and San Diego to comply with FCC ownership limits.

The $3.9 billion merger is pending approval from the FCC and Justice Department, but Sinclair needs to divest stations in order to comply with media ownership limits.

In its own filing with the FCC on Wednesday, Newsmax Media consultant John Simpson argues that Sinclair “attempts to give the impression that Sinclair will divest a significant number of broadcast stations to come into compliance with the broadcast ownership rules, when in fact Sinclair is engaged in a scheme to circumvent such rules and divest only a fraction of those stations while operating many stations via service agreements.”

Sinclair disclosed that it planned to divest Tribune’s WPIX-TV New York, WGN-TV Chicago and KSWB-TV San Diego, and also is seeking to receive an FCC waiver to own more than one of the top four stations in Indianapolis, Greensboro, N.C., and Harrisburg, Pa.

But Sinclair said in its filing that in the case of WPIX and WGN, it has buyers lined up for both stations but it intents to continue running the outlets through an “options and services agreement.”

Newsmax takes issue with Sinclair’s approach, and is calling on the FCC to require a more specific filing showing how the company will comply with the media ownership limits.

“Buried in footnotes, Sinclair reveals that the divestiture proposals are essentially a sham because the sidecar arrangements will give Sinclair the ability to continue to manage these stations after they have been acquired by third parties,” Newsmax said in its filing. “The FCC must send a clear message to Sinclair that this type of game-playing will not be tolerated. If it does not, the FCC will be providing yet another unusual and suspicious regulatory favor to Sinclair in a transaction that is already rife with the appearance of impropriety and special treatment.”

A spokeswoman for Sinclair did not immediately return a request for comment.

The merger is expected to eventually gain regulatory approval, but it has faced delays as the Justice Department has sought divestitures from the combined company. Sinclair will be the largest broadcaster in the country, with more than 200 stations.

In its filing, Sinclair also identified eight markets where it needs to sell off stations, but the company said that it plans to enter into agreements with buyers in Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Greensboro, N.C. to continue operating them even after a sale.

Newsmax, led by Chris Ruddy, has been highly critical not just of Sinclair’s plans, but of the FCC and a number of rules changes that were made last year that it says shows “favoritism” toward one company.

Newsmax noted that in recent transaction, the Justice Department has barred companies from entering into “option and service agreements” with divested stations.

“The commission should follow the same approach here,” Newsmax said in its filing. “If the commission nevertheless seeks comment on Sinclair’s recent submission before DOJ completes its own jurisdictional process, this will not only show the commission’s overreach, but again would demonstrate a pattern of favoritism to one company.”

A spokeswoman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that the rules changes were “consistent” with his long-held views to update media ownership regulations. The FCC’s inspector general has informed Democrats on Capitol Hill that he is conducting an investigation of the timing of the Sinclair transaction and the FCC’s rules changes.

The FCC limits any one company from owning stations covering more than 39% of U.S. TV households. The Tribune acquisition would put Sinclair well over the cap, into the 45% range. That is even after accounting for a “discount,” in which the FCC calculates a UHF station’s reach as only half that of a VHF outlet. That allows major companies to fall within the current cap.

NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, a trade group that represents major cable companies, also is pressing the FCC to press Sinclair for more information about its planned station sales.

These specifics are essential to understanding the competitive impact of the transaction, including the impact on future retransmission consent negotiations with Sinclair in these markets,” the group said in an FCC filing on Tuesday.

Sinclair has defended the size and scope of the merger, saying that it will better be able to compete against the growing strength of internet giants.

More Politics

  • A Man Walks Into the Cnn

    CNN Seeks 'Both Sides' Balance but Spurs Criticism From All Sides (Analysis)

    In a time when news viewers are splintering around partisan leanings, CNN is proving to be a uniter, not a divider: people from both sides of the political aisle are eager to criticize its business decisions and news coverage. The one-time plain vanilla network can’t win for losing as it tries to achieve an elusive [...]

  • J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrathVanity Fair

    J.J. Abrams, Katie McGrath to Host Fundraiser for Kamala Harris

    UPDATED Kamala Harris, continuing to draw support from high-profile Hollywood donors, will headline a fundraiser in Los Angeles next month at the Pacific Palisades home of J.J. Abrams and his wife, producer Katie McGrath. The March 20 event, an evening reception, is priced at $2,800 per person, with those who write and raise $10,000 listed [...]

  • Roger Stone, longtime advisor to President

    Judge Orders New Hearing With Roger Stone After Instagram Post

    WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered a hearing for Thursday to consider whether to modify her limited gag order on Roger Stone, or to even revoke the the conditions of his release, in light of his Instagram post in that featured a photo of her with the symbol of a rifle [...]

  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), speaks during

    Bernie Sanders Announces 2020 Presidential Run

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced he would again run for president, promising in an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning” that that “we’re gonna win.” Sanders aggressively challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and his focus on economic populism has helped shift the party leftward, as is evident as the field of [...]

  • Donald Trump

    Trump Rails Against 'SNL,' Again, And Suggests 'Retribution' for NBC

    WASHINGTON — President Trump once again took aim at “Saturday Night Live,” suggesting that there should be a price to pay by TV networks for delivering such scathing satire. “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without [...]

  • Roger Stone (L), longtime advisor to

    Judge Places Gag Order on Roger Stone Case

    WASHINGTON — A federal judge imposed a gag order on Roger Stone’s legal proceedings that places some limitations on what he, his lawyers, and other parties say about the case. Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump, was arrested last month after special counsel Robert Mueller brought charges that he misled the House Intelligence Committee [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content