Sinclair Media Encounters A Roadblock

In late July, the Washington Post ran a story that was tantalizing by virtue of what it omitted.

The paper reported that the FCC had raised substantial questions about Sinclair Broadcasting’s proposed merger with Tribune Media. In prior years, “substantial questions” by the FCC have been enough to derail proposals, and I was particularly surprised because up to this point, Ajit Pai, Trump’s appointee to head the FCC, has conducted himself precisely as one would expect a Trump appointee to behave, which is to say he has been a total tool of big telecom. For example, Pai engineered the repeal of Net Neutrality–despite the fact that his predecessor had strongly supported the policy (as do huge majorities of Americans) and despite the huge number of public comments protesting the move–an “accomplishment” that undoubtedly pleased Verizon, where he had been an executive before moving to the FCC.

Trump, of course, took to Twitter to express his disagreement, tweeting in his usual peevish and childish prose:

Trump said Tuesday that it was “So sad and unfair” that the FCC, an independent agency, did not approve the merger, a $3.9 billion transaction that would create a conservative television giant that originally hoped to reach roughly 70 percent of U.S. households.

In his tweet, the president stressed how the deal would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People,” though politics are not supposed to factor into merger considerations.

“Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” the president tweeted.

Sinclair–dubbed the worst media company you never heard of by John Oliver--is a lesser known clone of Fox News; if it were allowed to become the country’s largest broadcaster, that would vastly increase the influence of its reactionary programming by adding millions of homes to its nationwide network. (Its original proposal had the company reaching 233 stations in 108 markets.)

So far, Pai has been a reliable Trump lackey, consistently siding with big business over the consumers whose interests his agency is charged with protecting.

Pai moved to allow more consolidation among TV stations last year by restoring an FCC accounting method known as the UHF discount. Under the discount, broadcast companies can own more stations before bumping up against a national audience cap limiting their reach to 39 percent of U.S. households. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court dismissed an effort by consumer advocacy groups challenging Pai’s decision.

That court ruling is a victory for Sinclair, even as its deal undergoes legal review. The company’s merger proposal depends on the UHF discount to stay compliant with the FCC’s national audience cap; after factoring in the discount, Sinclair has said, the combined company will reach 38.9 percent of U.S. households.

Some of Pai’s critics, including Democrats in Congress, have highlighted these and other policy moves in questioning the chairman’s relationship with the conservative broadcasting giant.

Sinclair has close ties to the Trump administration. During the campaign, according to Politico, the company made a deal with Trump in which it promised positive media coverage for preferred access. (Reputable journalists they are not.) Boris Epshteyn, who worked for Trump in the White House, is a company executive.

The FCC’s sudden concern about the merger raises two questions, one of which is: why? Has Pai suddenly discovered that the purpose of the FCC is not the empowerment of Big Telecom? Is he less of a pawn than he has heretofore seemed? Is there some history between him and Sinclair that might emerge to suggest a quid pro quo that would smear his reputation if he simply rubber-stamped the proposed merger?

Inquiring minds want to know!

When the “substantial concerns” were first announced, several media outlets asked: will the clear disapproval of the twit in chief cause Pai to back off? That question is now moot; yesterday, Tribune Media called off the merger and announced a lawsuit against Sinclair.

A good result, but a very, very curious chain of events….


  1. I was as close to giddy as I get when I read that Tribune had called off the merger, but then I started wondering what might take its place. The one thing I know for certain is that everytime we think the right wing has hit bottom, they find a new low.

    An off topic FYI: Democrats in the Senate have filed FOIA requests to see the documents that Kavanaugh worked on while in the White House. It seems he may have lied under oath to the Judiciary Committee prior to his appointment to the DC Circuit. If those records are released, they will have proof.

  2. wow. a spark of sanity amidst the swirling cloud of the trump crapnado.
    There is a hope I hold: that the propaganda machine would slip up so bad the nakedness of the brutality and greed would be poured forth for all to see in their face and without a doubt! But the hope is not just that, the real hope is all those out there that are feeling despondent and without a voice in their government in that moment – would seize their voice from the clutches of an inhuman madman and his lackeys. And that the true power of the People would be made evident and plain. And then maybe we can start to rebuild a fundament Constitution driven government of the People By the People and FOR the People and the old money power hungry minds – be damned.

  3. The telecommunications industry has strongly divided interests. Companies who own local broadcast stations like Sinclair have sharply divergent interests from national networks (CBS etc), cable television providers (Charter etc), and wireless providers (Verizon etc).

    For example, net neutrality meant nothing to Sinclair because they are not a broadband provider. The FCC has historically been a battle field for the regulatory interests of these competing technologies and industries within “telecommunications”.

    Pai is just siding with the cable, wireless, and national networks, who are were opposed to the Sinclair expansion. His former employer was Verizon.

  4. The Trump administration continues to be the most corrupt, criminal and anti-American administration in our history – by far.

    Removing these scumbags from office at least will halt our demise and return sanity to our government. VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS ACROSS THE BOARD!

  5. If it is one thing you can depend on the Rabid Reactionary Republican Party will try every trick to win an election.

    From Common Cause:
    Last month, Common Cause Indiana scored a major win for early voting. In response to our lawsuit, a federal judge ordered an expansion of early voting sites in Marion County from one to six for the upcoming general election. This is a huge victory that will help voters in Indiana’s largest and most diverse county make their voices heard in our democracy.

    But now, that judgment is being met with groundless, partisan resistance from Attorney General Curtis Hill. On August 7th, he filed a motion attempting to undo the agreement, stating that efforts to expand early voting are not “in the public interest.” This is an outrageous and partisan attempt to suppress the vote, and we need to let Attorney General Hill know that his appeal is unacceptable and a waste of taxpayer money.
    Maybe this is Curtis Hill’s attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of the GOP.

  6. “Follow the money” has always been a pretty good strategy for forensic politics. What’s curious about that is that so many people are in love with Capitalism and oligarchy and hyper paid celebrities despite believing how often wealth is the root not only of evil but seemingly great unhappiness as well. A love/hate relationship?

    When I read through social media trying to understand a world that makes no sense to me any more one conclusion that I soon reach is how lucky I have been to be born when and who I was. That plus my insatiable curiosity about how the universe works pretty much guaranteed me a financially worry free life. Not that we didn’t care for our financial life but I don’t know the feeling of the wolves at the door. Apparently now many people do but the part that I’d like to understand more is the balance between poverty and greed. What motivates the average American’s relationship with money, advertising or comfort or risk or competition or reptilian brain stuff?

    Clearly the present is not sustainable. Agent Orange is the harbinger of the collapse of what was, what has been, and what is. Nobody knows how violent that collapse will be and the degree of struggle and pain necessary to recover to…….recover to what?

    About the only aspect of our society that I can clearly identify as dysfunctional is the degree of wealth inequity. The struggle today is largely between those who have been on the winning end of concentrating wealth vs those on the losing end plus those neither winning or losing but aware of the history of other societies typically not as extreme as we are by that measure.

    We will have a new Administration soon and what they will be elected on is how clear their vision is of what the next era looks like and an essential part of that is how to win the war on wealth concentration.

  7. I am not sure this is the end of the proposed merger, subsequent lawsuit notwithstanding. Perhaps all is tactics while Pai (whatever his motive) reagains a measure of public confidence and Trump the wannabe dictator (who needs to control the media if he is to succeed in destroying our tripartite form of government) twits his grief at the failure of the merger. Perhaps Trump will have Nunes or Paul take a message to Pai registering his displeasure, but in all events, let’s heed Yogi’s advice that “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

  8. when media becomes,generic,thats where it ends, when bush decided he didnt want the rants from liberal rock and jazz stations,he gelded the fcc,and its public service requirements. funny how, back in the late 60s to early 70s and beyond,into reagans primeier scam, we were as citizens,engaged much more,knowlege and song,set our commitments,to our society. when the media was being hammered over the war in central america,(keep this quiet) it was the begining of the end,of free media,in America. though few have a knowlege, because it was so under the gun,bush (2nd)decided,and he knew from former vietnam days,how the people and song,and the d.js discredited,those who needed some spankings,and the public had a live ear to keep abreast of the politcals.. Gary Webb, of killing the messenger, was reidculed by his own,and this was, a stepping stone for the goverment,and think tanks to score a salvo against free press. Take a few minutes,look at what Gary was doing,and his devotion to telling it like it was… i rememeber,the likes of news clips, showing forgotten soldiers of fortune from vietnam days,getting off planes in central america,to support the contras,( and how do you suppose were going to pay them?)and g bushes (1st) scam to allow cocaine into the u.s. (secord,u.s.a.f.,casey cia,even noriega) and support the contras. this was the begining of the end,of free press as we know it,,, Gary Webb was a real journalists, who other journalists killed, with the free press..maybe we need a new media,based on backbone,and some good ol anti trump songs,hey, Neil, whatchagot?

  9. It’s hard not to revel in schadenfreude over Epshteyn’s failure to consummate this merger. Even though he came to the U.S. from Moscow (where he maintains financial ties) at the age of 11, he is a member in good standing of the pro-Russian mafia that Trump has surrounded himself with. As Sinclair’s senior political analyst (aka lobbyist), he had no other role than maintaining intimacy with President Pinocchio. What will Sinclair do with him now that his mission flopped? Who cares!

    One reason that Boris’s name ranks so high on the list of awesomely disgusting people is that when he wrote Trump’s statement on the Holocaust Remembrance Day in January of 2017, he neglected to mention that any Jews were involved. As a Jew himself, that must have felt more than a little weird. But when you eagerly stand in line to kiss the steatopygous buttocks of our Dear Leader for purposes of career advancement, you can easily forget that 6 million of your ethnic brethren died at the hands of people whose ideology your boss shares.

  10. Gerald,

    “Perhaps Trump will have Nunes or Paul take a message to Pai registering his displeasure, but in all events, let’s heed Yogi’s advice that “It ain’t over until it’s over.””

    When we finally understand that our world has been turned UPSIDE DOWN, we might start to move forward.

    In Germany, it was ADOLPH HITLER and NAZI ideology first, then 60% of the Christian churches became NAZIFIED; on the other hand, in America, many evangelical churches were NAZIFIED first, then we have the rise of DONALD TRUMP and NAZI ideology.

    Because of the Nazi defeat in W.W. II, as Umberto Eco warned, it will have to come again in DISGUISE.

  11. Marv,

    The only “disguise” surrounding the Trump administration and his Republican lackeys in Congress is the absence of the will of 35% of the people to see it for what it is: PURE NAZI. Oh, it’s dressed up in the trappings os silk suits and flowery rhetoric, but one look and listen to Stephen Miller and you can hear the jackboots on parade.

  12. On the topic of media, but slightly different.

    Why after CNN — somewhat apologized — for having given Trump all the millions of dollars of free propaganda time during the 2016 election by live broadcasting all of his rallies from start to finish is CNN still live broadcasting everyone of Trump’s cult gatherings from start to finish? Of course it wasn’t only CNN that was guilty of that during the 2016 elections. [And, of course, I know why Fox does].

    But please tell me why CNN sent reporter Jim Acosta to Trump’s rally in Florida last week (to be placed in the fenced-in media bullpen, where Trump and all the rabid, crazy cult members knew exactly where they were) — or any reporter at all — and then live broadcast the rally?

    Where Acosta and CNN had to know that Trump (who has repeatedly publicly lambasted Acosta) would egg the crazies on to attack the media present?

    Why do the mainstream media continue to allow themselves to be used by Trump? [OK, I know, money is probably at the bottom of it somewhere].

    So as much as Acosta and CNN complain about Trump’s branding them as “Fake News Media,” they continue to play right into his hands. Disgusting.

  13. It seems entirely possible to me that real news outlets relish being branded by Agent Orange as purveyors of “fake news”.

  14. Surely Sinclair would not be fudging any numbers to come in at just under the 39%. How gullible do they expect us to be?

    There may be millions of fox noise watchers who will be disappointed that they won’t be able to access even more bias confirmation on their tv. This is so very sad.

  15. PERFIDY:
    In Germany, the Christians, during the 30’s and 40’s, who allowed themselves to be Nazified, knew at least they were Nazis. That’s not the case in the U.S.; the Christians who were involved in the beginning, didn’t know they were being Nazified. How could they? Weren’t they being supported by the American Zionist establishment?

    Jewish organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League, NEVER exposed the OUTWARD or CODED anti-Semitism prevalent in the majority of the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, because, they knew if they did, the support for Israel would, quickly, disappear.

    Under those conditions, how could you determine right from wrong.? The impression given was that Jesus must sanction all of this. If the Jews aren’t complaining, then all the anti-Semitic rhetoric must be TRUE.


  16. There’s nothing new in the above brief comment. All of this was discussed, at length, in my testimony given during a closed session of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, convened in Jacksonville, Florida in the early 90’s.

  17. I have yet to breathe a complete sigh of relief. Yet, the news that Tribune dumped on the Sinclair merger allows me to exhale just a smidge. Add to this: Judge Sullivan ordering a plane back to the U.S. with an asylum-seeking mother and child; another federal (?) judge ordering the faux Administration to restart the DACA program; and recent election victories such as Alexandra Ocasio-Perez, are encouraging signs. Gov. Holcomb actually getting behind a hate crime bill here in Hoosierland is another example that the tide may just be turning toward common-sense government with compassion towards all humanity at its core. So, a quiet hip-hip-hooray from my corner of this crazy world.

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