As legal and regulatory wrangling continues over Sinclair’s pending acquisition of Tribune Media, the broadcast group has once again articulated the upside of the deal.
In a lengthy formal response to several industry groups who have filed petitions with the FCC to deny the merger on anti-competitive grounds, Sinclair sums up its position by insisting “the sky is not falling.”
The company said the petitioners, which include Hollywood guilds, have raised objections due to “subjective disagreement with content that airs on Sinclair stations.” The company has drawn flack over “must-run” editorial segments that often promote President Donald Trump’s conservative agenda. Contrary to that view, Sinclair maintains that the transaction is in the public interest because it will promote local news operations.
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The company also cites the opinion of a federal judge last month, which allowed AT&T to buy Time Warner and roundly rejected the anti-competitive assertions of the U.S. Department of Justice. Just as those media giants say they are being dwarfed by tech behemoths they must compete with, so also are local TV owners, per Sinclair. Anyone objecting to the deal because it would create a local TV giant with reach into two-thirds of American households — far more than the traditional FCC limit of 39% of households — is stuck in the past, the company says. Such opponents are effectively asking regulators “to review this transaction as if it took place in a time when there were seven TV channels and phones were simply used to call someone to say hello, rather than to watch a full-length movie or live newscast.”
In today’s TV landscape, the company adds, “there are hundreds of TV channels, OTT video services are proliferating and being subscribed to by tens of millions of households, and the lines between telephone companies, internet providers, MVPDs, programmers and broadcasters have long since disappeared.”
As the company has sought to close the $3.9 billion deal it first proposed back in May 2017, the agenda of the Republican-controlled FCC and the day-to-day culture at Sinclair have both come under scrutiny.
Critics of the deal draw a direct connection between President Donald Trump’s deregulatory blitz and rules changes enacted by the FCC, which they say have sped the path of the deal. A lawsuit is currently pending which alleges improper ties between the FCC and Sinclair, which the commission and company have denied.
Along the way, Sinclair has shed many of the stations it planned to acquire, lightening the portfolio to a level that it argues should be acceptable. And there are indications it could go another step further. According to a report by website TVNewsCheck, the company has fielded offers to buy 10 stations worth a collective $1 billion, which would further reduce the company’s portfolio as it looks to close the deal.
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