The Sinclair-Tribune merger should be rejected. Through its acquisition of Tribune, Sinclair Broadcasting will stifle local and independent media voices and put profits ahead of their local viewers, jeopardizing both localism and competition.
A combined Sinclair-Tribune would own over 230 television stations, including more than 130 “Big 4” affiliated stations and transmitting over 500 primary and multicast television channels. This mega broadcaster would cover 108 media markets including 40 out of the top 50 DMAs. In 42 markets, Sinclair-Tribune would own more than one “Big 4” station.
The Sinclair-Tribune combination will give Sinclair more leverage in extracting higher prices paid by pay-TV distributors, leading to higher prices for consumers. It will also squeeze independent programmers from the market.
Additionally, the combined companies will effectively control the market for certain broadcast equipment and impede deployment of mobile broadband in order to strengthen Sinclair’s grip on ATSC 3.0, limiting competition and choice for distribution of content and broadband services.
A combined Sinclair-Tribune will harm localism, including by scaling back local news operations and consolidating, duplicating, or even replacing local news programming. Customers, many of whom live in rural areas, rely on local news and weather delivered by a dedicated, community-based team.
In addition to scaling back local news operations, Sinclair has a history of pushing national “must run” stories that substitute the judgement of local newscasters and coverage of local issues in favor of national stories produced by Sinclair.
The Sinclair Tribune merger is opposed by many independent networks – both on the left and the right – including Newsmax because it would threaten media diversity and stifle independent voices. Newsmax and other independent networks, along with DISH, the American Cable Association, and Public Knowledge, among others, have requested additional time and information in the FCC review period.
Sinclair has a record of picking political winners and losers at their national headquarters and promoting them instead of allowing their local stations to be fair and balanced. Their expanded power and reach will cause them to become more engaged in political news stories and even play favorites in Republican primaries.
Sinclair objected to airing a 2004 Nightline program on the Iraq war. Senator John McCain called this decision a “gross disservice to the public and men and women of the United States Armed Forces.” CNN, 4/30/04
Americans rely on local news to deliver information relevant to their communities and daily lives. It is more important than ever that we keep our local news in our local public interest, not the interest of a few at the top of Sinclair Broadcasting.