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Sinclair/Tribune Critics Tell FCC: No Deal

With reply comments due Aug. 29 on Sinclair's $3.9 billion proposal to buy Tribune's TV stations, opponents of the deal do not appear to have been persuaded by Sinclair's lengthy defense of the deal's public interest benefits, which was filed at the FCC Aug. 22.

Those critics had already signaled unofficially that Sinclair's case was unpersuasive, but they were lining up to make if official in their reply comments.

That included the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which said the FCC should reject the deal and Congress should call hearings on how important independent local TV is.

“Sinclair has failed to explain how this multi-billion dollar merger could possibly be in the public interest," said Computer & Communications Industry Association President Ed Black. "Even more, allowing this centrally controlled broadcast behemoth that has a history of cutting local news staff and adversely affect independent, local TV stations, would be detrimental. Anyone who values decentralized government control, states’ rights and independent voices should oppose this merger that would harm citizens and weaken our democracy.

“It’s a concern that a merger that would be so harmful to rural areas, independent news stations and citizens could even be considered. The FCC should reject this takeover proposal outright, and Congress needs to hold hearings to more thoroughly understand the media landscape and how critical independent local broadcast stations are in a democracy.”

The Competitive Carriers Association, which like CCIA had petitioned the FCC to deny the deal, renewed that call in its replies, also clearly not convinced by Sinclair's pitch.

“The FCC should look at the proposed Tribune, Sinclair transaction for what it really is – the opportunity for Sinclair to secure its dominant position in the market and shut out competitors to the detriment of consumers and the industry as a whole," said CCA President Steven K. Berry. "There is broad opposition – from consumer groups, independent programmers, local broadcasters and hundreds of citizens – to the transaction, and this widespread concern should not be ignored.  I strongly encourage the FCC to deny the proposed acquisition to prevent extensive public-interest, economic and competitive harm.”  

CCA said it is concerned that Sinclair could slow the post-incentive auction repack, where broadcast spectrum is being converted to broadband spectrum, given the combined company's size—it would be the largest TV broadcast group with over 200 stations, including more repack stations than any other group.

Sinclair has vigorously defended its proposed merger with Tribune to the FCC as both in the interest of the public and of its company, which it says needs to scale up to be better able to compete with a growing number of less-regulated competitors. In fact, it says what deal opponents don't understand is that the deal will help "save" free, over-the-air TV.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.