Sinclair has been hammered for a perceived conservative and pro-Donald Trump bias, but Chris Ruddy—CEO of conservative media news outlet Newsmax and a friend of President Donald Trump—does not like the proposed Sinclair-Tribune deal and has asked the FCC to hold off on making any decision about it.
In a filing with the FCC, Newsmax joined Dish, the American Cable Association and Public Knowledge in asking the FCC for additional time to weigh and comment on the proposed deal. A Newsmax representative confirmed Ruddy has major problems with the combo.
Newsmax points out the combined company would be the nation's largest broadcaster, would exceed the FCC's 39% ownership cap, and would have impermissible duopolies in 11 markets—it would have to divest or the FCC would have to give it some help.
"This current transaction overturns more than three decades of bipartisan consensus and rulemaking, as well as Congressional intent, while raising serious competitive concerns," said Newsmax, stopping just short of asking for outright denial but coming close.
It wants Sinclair and Tribune to talk more about the public interest benefits of the deal so Newsmax and others can better assess the case for the deal. "The Applicants must be required to provide additional information to enable a full evaluation of the impact of this transaction," it said.
It said the pleading cycle should be extended given that the FCC is going to review its media ownership rules, including one related to the UHF discount, which could reduce the need for divestitures if the FCC loosens the duopoly rules to allow more of those impermissible combos.
"While a rushed pleading cycle with limited public interest scrutiny will immediately benefit Sinclair and Tribune, it would not serve the interests of American consumers, who may be burdened by additional cable/satellite costs due to the market leverage the new combined Sinclair-Tribune company would wield, among several negative economic implications this transaction may hold. And, significantly press freedom and media diversity may be seriously harmed by this transaction and other transactions that may result from this precedent, further limiting press freedom and media diversity. As a result, NewsMax Media, Inc. believes that the potential public harm that could be caused by this transaction requires the Commission to seek a full, fair and proper review."
"I think the Sinclair merger with Tribune raises very serious concerns about competition and media diversity," Ruddy told B&C. "President Trump himself warned about the 'concentration of media power.' The Commission and public need sufficient opportunity to carefully review this precedent-setting deal."
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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.