Opposition to the merger between the Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media has created strange bedfellows. Sinclair, a network that requires its stations to run right-leaning news segments, is getting heat from both sides of the political aisle.
Michael Fletcher runs Ride Television Network, and is a self-described “pro-business conservative.” He says a combined Sinclair-Tribune would create the single largest operator of local broadcast stations in the country, reaching 72 percent of American households.
“Monopolistic plays like this hurt entrepreneurs, they hurt small businesses,” he says. “So, we want to be able to bring that testimony to Congress, and we want Congress to let them [Sinclair] know that they think that this is harmful to the public.”
Fletcher notes consolidation would likely lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. He says the sheer size of the combined companies would give Sinclair leverage to hold prized programming, such as NFL games and 60 Minutes, hostage unless distributors like DISH and Comcast pay up.
Fletcher says Americans need access to diverse sources of information, and argues the merger would effectively create a monopoly that could squeeze out independent and local news.
He adds by approving Sinclair’s proposal, the Federal Communications Commission throws out a long-standing rule that limits a broadcaster from controlling more than 39 percent of the market nationally.
“The airwaves that TV stations broadcast over are owned by the American public,” he explains. “The FCC doesn’t even own them, the U.S. government doesn’t own them. They license it to these folks, like Sinclair.”