'Underground' Producer Legend Blames Sinclair for Show’s Exit

John Legend, executive producer of Underground on WGN America, took to Facebook and Twitter to take aim at the Sinclair/Tribune merger, saying it had threatened his show's future.

"In its first two seasons, Underground was undeniably a hit series, setting ratings records for WGN America, receiving rave reviews and sparking conversation in the media," he wrote. "It was screened at the White House and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was acknowledged by the NAACP, NABJ, and many other highly respected institutions, and generated widespread engagement on social media as a trending topic during every new episode… yet here we are, still fighting for a future for the series.

"How did we get here? WGN America was bought by media conglomerate Sinclair Communications. Sinclair has pursued a strategy of buying up local networks and moving their news coverage to fit their far-right agenda," he wrote. "In addition, they’ve bought Tribune Media, the parent company of WGN America and immediately turned away from high-quality original dramas such as Underground and Outsiders in favor of cheaper unscripted entertainment."

Sinclair had a simple response given that Sinclair has not yet bought Tribune or its stations and the FCC is still vetting the deal and will not be making a decision on whether Sinclair can buy Tribune until next month at least. "Sinclair Broadcast Group does not own WGN and has no influence on the programming decisions made by the channel," Sinclair said in a statement.

Tribune did cancel Undergroundback in May as part of a programming shift as it prepared for the Sinclair takeover.

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.