Illinois, Iowa, Rhode Island urge
rejection of Sinclair-Tribune tie-up
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[June 23, 2018]
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attorneys
general of Illinois, Iowa and Rhode Island urged the Federal
Communications Commission to reject Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc’s
proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co, citing "excessive
consolidation" in the television market
Sinclair, the largest U.S. television broadcast group with 192 stations,
announced plans in May 2017 to acquire Chicago-based Tribune’s 42 TV
stations in 33 markets.
In April, Sinclair said it would sell 23 television stations to obtain
the necessary regulatory approvals of the Tribune transaction. Sinclair,
based in Hunt Valley, Maryland, said that if the deal was approved it
would reach nearly 59 percent of the nation’s television households.
The three attorneys general, all Democrats, said in a filing with the
FCC made public on Thursday that the deal "creates excessive
consolidation, unreasonably reducing the number of voices in the
broadcast television marketplace" and is "not in the public interest."
The filing noted that Illinois and Iowa are among broadcast markets in
36 states that will be affected by the deal and said that "stations
serving audiences in Illinois and Iowa are the subject of divestiture
The American Civil Liberties Union also objected to the deal in a
separate filing, saying that it "consolidates an unprecedented amount of
market power into one corporate entity" and would allow Sinclair to
continue to operate some of the stations it is selling.
A Sinclair spokeswoman declined to comment on the filings.
Conservative news outlet Newsmax Media, satellite TV operator Dish
Network Corp and trade group NCTA – the Internet & Television
Association are among those voicing objections to the merger.
Newsmax Media said in a FCC filing that many of the divested stations
were being sold for below-market prices and suggested that Sinclair
would continue to have "de facto control" over some stations being sold.
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the
FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
Dish Network said in a FCC filing that the deal will "lead to higher
prices, more station blackouts, less choice, and less local news for
millions of consumers."
And the NCTA said in a filing that the combined company "would
create a broadcast colossus of unprecedented size, scope, and
In April 2017, the FCC reversed a 2016 decision limiting the number
of television stations some broadcasters can buy, paving the way for
the Sinclair-Tribune tie-up because it allows Sinclair to only
partially count some stations toward the cap.
A federal appeals court is currently considering whether to reverse
that decision. Sinclair would still be above the existing cap, even
if the 2017 decision is upheld.
In April, 12 U.S. senators asked the FCC to investigate local news
anchors' at Sinclair-owned stations around the country being forced
to read company-mandated scripts and "deliberately distorting news."
The scripts criticized “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one
sided news stories plaguing our country." The FCC rejected the
After the scripts drew significant public attention, President
Donald Trump tweeted on April 2 in defense of Sinclair: “Sinclair is
far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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