Sinclair’s Long Game – Tribune Media Merger

sinclair tribune merger TheStreet

Sinclair Broadcasting, aka Sinclair Communications finds favor with Trump (our President who loves dictators) because Trump favors state media. He tells us almost every day that independent media providers are the “enemy of the people” when they are actually only trying to document the un-American tendencies in this administration by telling us what is really happening. Trump wants news sources to stroke his ego, to offer us hyperbole about the amazing performance of his unpopular policies. He wants a media that is unable to say anything about him that might be construed as negative. He is an enemy of the First Amendment.

Fox News already spews “state news” 24/7, but Trump’s little heart went pitter-pat when he found out that our local news is also becoming a propaganda arm of the Trump presidency. He thought that the FCC was in his pocket and would approve the merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media allowing Sinclair to gobble up more local markets. But the FCC did not stay with the program and recently offered a setback to the merger.

Sinclair and the FCC

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/07/trump-tweets-anger-at-fcc-after-pai-blocks-sinclairtribune-merger/

“President Donald Trump yesterday lashed out at the Federal Communications Commission over its vote to block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media Company.

‘So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,’ Trump tweeted.

A combination of Sinclair and Tribune ‘would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People,’ Trump wrote. Trump contrasted the Sinclair/Tribune denial with the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, which happened in 2011.

‘Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!’ Trump wrote.

The FCC voted unanimously to stop the Sinclair merger with Tribune Media. It would be nice for us if we could take a little victory lap and say “mischief managed,” but in a democracy decisions are rarely forever. We like to revisit things, especially in these days of policies divided along partisan lines. So you will notice that this article uses terms like this will “most likely” kill the merger. You would think a unanimous decision would represent an absolute end to this merger, but for some reason the outcome is not being celebrated as a done deal. We are told that only a court can make the decision stick. What will the court decide?

Why Should We Care

Sinclair, well over the limit in the number of news outlets considered acceptable according to FCC guidelines (laws), has offered to divest itself of a few large markets, one of them being Chicago. But, through leaking or the rumor mill, it became obvious that Sinclair was just setting up a new relationship with friendly companies where they would appear to be calving off a group of stations but the company buying the large market outlets would actually still allow Sinclair to have controlling input into broadcasting on those stations. When the FCC got wind of this they were not best pleased. Ajit Pai, current head of the FCC, who previously offered rulings favorable to Sinclair, has perhaps registered his pique through this FCC vote. But if Sinclair offers their divestiture deal again without the trickery  the FCC could, perhaps, reverse its vote on this matter. Or the court could ignore the decision.

Should Local News Become Fox Lite

Meanwhile Sinclair continues to send local stations “must run” segments with news from Washington (Trump) using its own commentators, not local news people. In some markets people still see controversial commenters like Sebastian Gorka, but in most markets the Sinclair staff people used in these “must run” tapes are relatively unknown. If you catch the names and do an internet search for them you will find that they are all employees of Sinclair. When people identify one pundit as a Sinclair employee, Sinclair uses another. It should be a positive that the commenters are not as obviously Trump supporters as they once were, but it just makes the slant so subtle that many listeners will not realize their knowledge of events is being shifted to the right. Our own local news people are now also Sinclair employees. There are strict penalties if they leave the company. After the debacle of the reading of Sinclair’s dishonest disclaimer and the subsequent exposure by the Deadspin video, Sinclair might have decided that a bit of discretion would allow greater scope to their propaganda campaign as long as it is targeted right into the villages and towns where we live.

Will There Be a Do-Over

“Let’s see if the unanimous decision of the FCC holds. If so there will be no merger between Sinclair Communications (Broadcasting) and Tribune Media and we the people will have won a small victory.

The FCC last week voted unanimously against approving the Sinclair/Tribune deal. Sinclair needed to divest some stations in order to stay under federal ownership limits, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the company’s proposal to divest certain stations ‘would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.’

The FCC didn’t block the merger outright, but it referred the deal to an administrative law judge. Mergers usually don’t survive that legal process.”

 

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