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Sinclair Foes Try to Enlist AGs in Pushback

The Coalition to Save Local Media, which could as easily be called the "Coalition to Block the Sinclair-Tribune Merger," said it will be sending letters to attorneys general in every state that has a Sinclair or Tribune TV station, asking them to probe the deal.

The merger would result in the largest broadcast TV group at over 200 stations reaching over 70% of the country.

In the letter to California AG Xavier Becerra, for example (an example the coalition highlighted), the group said: "If the proposed merger goes through, Sinclair would own 14 stations across nine markets including acquiring new stations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento. In Reno, Eureka, and Chico, the combined company would own more than one 'Big Four' station."

FCC rules prevent owning two of the Big Four affiliates in any market but FCC chair Ajit Pai has proposed allowing it on a case-by-case basis, and in any event the coalition cites a Sinclair executive saying the company did not expect to have to sell any stations.

Related: FCC Takes Wraps Off Media Ownership Proposal

"There are very serious issues surrounding the competitive effects of the Sinclair-Tribune transaction, and we urge the state of California to join DOJ’s investigation into the merger," the letter said. 

The coalition's members include cable and satellite operators and programmers that don't want Sinclair's retrans muscle to get any stronger or its footprint any larger, plus those who criticize the conservative bent of its national programming offerings and commentary, or oppose more media consolidation in general.

The other states getting their own versions of the letter are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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.