The editorial page of the Boston Globe has come out strongly against the $3.9 billion merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media, calling Sinclair a right-leaning giant whose bid to buy Tribune's stations is of "urgent concern."
"Sinclair is already the largest owner of local television stations in the United States, and its proposed $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune would turn it into a behemoth, with access to more than 70 percent of American households," the paper said. "An expansion of that size isn’t in the public interest, and federal regulators should move to block it. If they fail to act, state attorneys general should step up and attempt to stop the merger."
The Globe acknowledged the door swings both ways.
"There are, of course, plenty of competing, left-leaning views in our increasingly crowded mediascape," the editorial said. "But local news is a special case. Local broadcasters have something of a captive audience, and federal regulators should be diligent about ensuring a diversity of views."
Sinclair took on that argument last month in its oppositions to petitions to deny the deal.
"Petitioners further allege that the transaction is against the public interest because Sinclair presents biased or 'conservative' news coverage," the company said. "Taken at face value, petitioners’ arguments would suggest Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune would increase diversity because it is adding a different “voice” to the marketplace, just a voice with which Petitioners apparently disagree."
But Sinclair also said its critics were looking at the less than 1% of programming comprising one or two brief commentaries and the 2.5% of internally syndicated programming, rather than the other 9.75% of local news for which critics have provided no evidence is biased, or insufficient or directed from corporate.
The Globe also cited the non-merger specific argument of sheer size, saying that will mean higher retrans fees passed on to MVPD consumers.
The FCC is currently in day 61 of its unofficial 180-day shot clock on merger reviews.
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.
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