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  • LatestJune 21, 2018

    Coalition to Save Local Media Members Announce New FCC Filings Calling for Denial of Sinclair-Tribune Merger

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  • Today, members of the Coalition to Save Local Media continued to highlight how Sinclair and Tribune have failed to provide adequate evidence that their mega-merger is in the public interest and called for the FCC to deny the merger.  Members announced their filings to the Federal Communications Commission during the reopened public comment period for the proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group-Tribune Media merger.


    As the Coalition to Save Local Media has previously said, the FCC and all merger stakeholders are awaiting a pivotal decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on whether the FCC will be allowed to restore the UHF discount. Without the outdated and unjustified UHF discount, Sinclair and Tribune’s attempted merger will place the combined entity substantially over the national ownership cap, even under their latest proposal. Any action on this transaction is premature until the D.C. Circuit settles a critical question impacting how big Sinclair is allowed to grow.


    A joint filing from nine Coalition to Save Local Media members including Cinemoi, International Cinematographers Guild, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians – CWA, Public Knowledge, Sports Fans Coalition, Herndon-Reston Indivisible, Latino Victory Project, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, and RIDE TV can be found here.  


    From nine members of the Coalition to Save Local Media’s filing: “The Applicants have, time and again, tried to address concerns about the proposed transaction by proposing various ‘divestitures.’ As commenters pointed out, these proposed divestitures were shams, since they gave Sinclair the ability to continue managing the stations involved and also gave it the option of repurchasing the stations at a later time.  Applicants’ latest plan is more of the same.  Applicants pledge to divest six stations to comply with local and national ownership rules, yet Sinclair retains the option to repurchase each of these stations, and Sinclair has simultaneously entered into various services agreements, allowing Sinclair to effectively exercise control of these stations.”


    A joint filing from Common Cause, United Church of Christ, and the Nation Hispanic Media Coalition can be found here.


    From Yosef Getachew, Director of Media and Democracy Program at Common Cause: “The Sinclair-Tribune merger is riddled with public interest harms that would negatively impact localism, diversity, and competition. Local broadcasting is an essential source of news and information for a nation of diverse and distinct communities. Unfortunately, Sinclair seeks to eliminate local news coverage, and replace it with centralized editorial content disguised with the voices of trusted local broadcasters in our communities. The merger will only further Sinclair’s goals of becoming a national network at the expense of local programming and diverse viewpoints. The Commission must also reject Sinclair’s sham divestiture plan, which includes sweetheart deals, buy back options, and revenue sharing agreements all in an effort to maintain control over stations it claims its selling. Sinclair has offered no evidence to show its merger is in the public interest.”


    From Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor, United Church of Christ, OC Inc.:  “The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, OC Inc., is proud to join the petition to deny prepared by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and Common Cause.  Approval of the Sinclair merger is not possible without violating Congressionally-set media ownership limits.  Such a merger will trigger a series of additional mergers and will reduce the number of independent voices in local media and reduce the likelihood that women and people of color could ever own a meaningful number of local television stations.”


    Parents Television Council’s filing can be found here


    From Parents Television Council’s filing: “This matter must not be just about Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune. Rather, this regulatory review must be about the loss of local, public accountability for the use – or abuse – of the public airwaves. If the FCC delivers on its promise to weaken existing media ownership restrictions, and be manifested by approving transactions such as this one; then children and families will become collateral damage as too-big-to-fail media powerhouses fight to become even stronger.”


    The American Cable Association filed a petition to deny can be found here.


    About ACA’s filing: “ACA filed a Petition to Deny to emphasize that the Commission must find that the divestiture applications (to Fox, Howard Stirk, etc.) serve the public interest in their own right. Yet divestiture applicants make no showing on this point. And the divestitures will cause many of the same harms as the underlying transaction itself. On the existing record, the Commission cannot grant these applications.”


    A filing from the Communications Workers of America, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America, and NewsGuild-Communications Worker of America can be found here


    From CWA-NABET-TNG’s filing: “Over the past year, Sinclair has failed to demonstrate that any purported merger-related benefits exceed the substantial public interest harms. Even with the totally inadequate divestiture proposal, the Sinclair-Tribune merger would violate the 39 percent national audience reach limit mandated by Congress. The merger would reduce viewpoint diversity, harm localism, diminish competition in the industry, and result in significant job loss. Sinclair’s most recent divestiture proposal does not resolve merger-related harms and strains the meaning of the word ‘divestiture.’ And while it would be premature for the Commission to rule on the proposed transaction before the DC Circuit issues a decision on the UHF discount, we urge the Commission to deny the Sinclair-Tribune merger.”


    Indivisible Herndon-Reston’s filing can be found here.  


    From Indivisible Herndon-Reston’s Howard Weiss: “Forced by Sinclair’s ‘moving target’ approach to the purported divestitures which it claims will persuade the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to approve its merger, the Commission has allowed Sinclair one more bite at the apple.  However, as HRI points out in its Petition to deny filed today, the divestitures are shams.  They contemplate sales at below market prices to business associates and fronts for Sinclair. Further, the ostensible divestitures are encumbered by ‘sidecar’ deals, replete with station service, option and lease arrangements that will allow Sinclair to maintain de facto control over the putative licensees.  Accordingly, the Commission should either deny approval of the merger or designate it for hearing before an agency Administrative Law Judge.”

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