Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday urging him to reject the proposed $3.9 billion merger of Sinclair and Tribune.
“With this proposed transaction, Sinclair threatens to strangle whatever remaining localism remains in our communities," Blumenthal wrote. "With its outsourced news and distant ownership, Sinclair would reduce the number of independent voices in each of these markets and sharply reduce the number of local journalists and reporters. Every market impacted by this mega-merger would experience a reduction in responsive local news due to Sinclair’s unresponsive top-down approach – denigrating diversity, diminishing our already distorted civic discourse, and devaluing the local voices of women and people of color.”
Blumenthal said the transaction not only violates existing rules, he suggested Pai had removed another regulatory obstacle. "You resurrected the illogical and wildly out-of-date UHF discount just this year, allowing Sinclair to more easily purport to comply with congressionally mandated limits on TV station groups' nationwide audience reach. This can only be explained by your interest in prioritizing the outlandish demands of Sinclair over the public interest."
Pai has said it could be explained by the need to consider the discount in the context of other media ownership regs, in particular the 39% national audience reach cap he says is inextricably entwined with the discount.
The senator back in June called off hearings on the deal in the Senate, saying it needed further scrutiny. Republicans in control of the calendar did not schedule such hearings.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.