The proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media is getting push back from independent news outlets and consumer groups.
Critics say the merger would lead to higher cable bills and fewer news options.
Charles Herring, president of One America News Network, is concerned that Sinclair’s practice of forcing stations to run politically charged segments could push out local news content.
“So basically what you have is Sinclair, the ‘mother ship,’ dictating what people are going to hear and see on a local level,” Herring states. “And that’s not good for our democracy. It’s not good for diverse sources of news.”
A combined Sinclair-Tribune would own more than 500 television stations across 108 media markets.
In Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Omaha, Sinclair would own at least two stations.
Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group, told the Los Angeles Times the merger would give Sinclair more leverage to extract higher prices paid by distributors such as Comcast and DirecTV, and consumers ultimately would foot the bill.
The merger also has raised legal and policy issues.
Herring says the Federal Communications Commission has made an unusual exception to a long-standing rule that limits a broadcaster from controlling more than 39 percent of the market nationally.
“And the FCC is playing games with the rules to allow Sinclair to actually control about 80 percent of the market,” he points out.
Herring and others are calling on Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, to hold hearings to lay out the full impact of Sinclair’s proposal.
“Sen. Grassley has been a leader on a number of fronts,” Herring states. “He understands that we need a marketplace that works.
“And when one company, such as a Sinclair combined with Tribune, gets too large and the marketplace isn’t functioning properly that he needs to step in.”
Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Herring says has jurisdiction over “protection of trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies,” including major mergers.