Action alert from FreePress
Donald Trump’s favorite local-TV chain is about to get a lot bigger thanks to … Donald Trump!
Trump’s FCC is paving the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group — already the nation’s largest TV conglomerate — to take over Tribune,1 which owns 42 stations in many of the country’s big cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and Denver.
This deal would have been DOA in any other administration. It would create an unthinkable level of media consolidation by a company that’s used the public airwaves to push a conservative political agenda. But Trump’s FCC is actually rewriting the rules to make it happen2 — and to give one of the administration’s loudest media boosters an even bigger megaphone.
This is a major scandal. Sinclair is trading favorable coverage for policy favors.
Sinclair is notorious for slipping right-wing views and Republican talking points into its newscasts. The company overrides the objections of local journalists and forces its stations to run conservative commentaries and slanted stories on the local news.
This is the same company that aired the distorted Swift Boat movie that helped sink John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. Sinclair also refused to fire commentator Armstrong Williams after the FCC fined the company in 2007 for airing government propaganda and failing to disclose his conflicts of interest. Instead, Sinclair put Williams in charge of one its front companies.
And, of course, they went all out for Trump in 2016. Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law, boasted about the special deal he struck with Sinclair to get Trump uninterrupted favorable coverage.3 And Sinclair has been hiring Trump campaign spokespeople as analysts ever since.4
Now Sinclair’s getting its payback.
If this deal goes through, Sinclair’s cookie-cutter, Trump-boosting content could reach more than 70 percent of the U.S. population.5 But to pull off its takeover of Tribune, Sinclair needs the FCC to change the rules.
So that’s exactly what Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is doing: As one of his first acts, he changed how the agency calculates station reach so Sinclair could skirt ownership limits. While Sinclair is pretending to be smaller in FCC land, it’s boasting to investors in the real world about just how bigly its reach will be.
The FCC’s ownership limits were designed to ensure a diversity of local voices and opinions but very few TV stations are owned by women or people of color. Instead of creating policies that promote equity and opportunity, the Trump FCC would rather super-size Sinclair.
For years, Sinclair has been using every trick in the book to evade and undermine the rules. Now the game has changed: Instead of appointing a referee to call corporate fouls, Trump gave the whistle to Chairman Pai, a full-throated cheerleader for runaway consolidation.
Free Press has long been an outspoken critic of Sinclair. Our policy team is already hard at work building the case against the deal and exploring legal options to challenge it. But to win this fight, we need to show Washington just how outraged people are by this kind of back-room dealing.
Craig, Amy, Tim and the rest of the Free Press team
P.S. If this deal goes through, Sinclair’s right-wing commentary will take over the local news more than 70 percent of Americans see. Speak out to stop this merger today.
1. “Sinclair Announces Station Takeover One Day After Trump’s FCC Votes to Loosen Ownership Rules,” Free Press, April 21, 2017: https://act.freepress.net/go/16843?t=8&akid=6400.8802877.M_jUk_
2. “Trump’s FCC Chair Continues to Shaft the Public, Offer Major Handouts to Big Media,” Free Press, April 20, 2017: https://act.freepress.net/go/16844?t=10&akid=6400.8802877.M_jUk_
3. “Jared Kushner: We Struck Deal with Sinclair for Straighter Coverage,” Politico, Dec. 19, 2016: http://act.freepress.net/go/16845?t=12&akid=6400.8802877.M_jUk_
4. “Ex-Trump Spokesperson Joins Sinclair Broadcasting,” CNN, April 17, 2017: http://act.freepress.net/go/16846?t=14&akid=6400.8802877.M_jUk_
5. “Trump-Friendly Company Buys Rights to Deliver Local News to 70 Percent of U.S. Households,” New York, May 9, 2017: http://act.freepress.net/go/16847?t=16&akid=6400.8802877.M_jUk_
Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund are nonpartisan organizations fighting for your rights to connect and communicate. Learn more at www.freepress.net.