Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Sinclair, which owns 173 local TV stations, many in rural areas, will buy Tribune Co.'s 42 stations

Sinclair Broadcasting, which predominately owns small market television stations in rural areas, and has shown evidence of conservative bias, said it "will pay $3.9 billion to buy Tribune Media Company and its 42 local television stations," Todd C. Frankel reports for The Washington Post. Sinclair, which already has 173 local news stations, "will create the largest-single group of local TV stations." Sinclair beat out 21st Century Fox to land the deal.

"Tribune Media said in a statement that it expects Federal Communications Commission’s rules on ownership and antitrust regulations may result in Sinclair selling some stations," Frankel writes. "Current FCC rules limit the national TV audience that any single owner can reach at 39 percent. Regulations also prohibit any owner from running more than two stations in most markets."

"But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—who was elevated to his post by President Trump earlier this year—has indicated in speeches that he wants to loosen the TV ownership rules," Frankel reports. "Last month, Pai’s FCC reinstated a rule that helps station owners get around the national audience cap. The so-called UHF discount allows stations to count just 50 percent of its audience from UHF stations toward the audience cap. Last fall, the FCC, under President Obama, revoked the UHF cap. Now, with its return last month, stations have more room to stay under the cap."

UPDATE, May 10: The acquisition gives Sinclair "a powerful platform to potentially launch a right-leaning programming service to rival Fox News," Stephen Battaglio of the Los Angeles Times reports. "Sinclair will have a footprint in most of the country's major markets, spanning about a third of the nation's households," including the top three markets: New York, Chicago and L.A. "Sinclair, which has a reputation for injecting conservative commentary in local news, could leverage the cable and satellite retransmission deals for its TV stations to get carriage of a potential new news channel that could skew politically to the right of Fox News," Battaglio reports, adding that analysts told him "Sinclair could also put such a network with national reach on its over-the-air digital multicast channels." "I think they have ambitions to do that," Ben Bogardus, a professor of broadcast journalism at Connecticut's Quinnipiac University who is a former news producer at Sinclair's Washington, D.C., station WJLA, told Battaglio. "They've bought up enough real estate and market share that they can legitimately launch a national news station and they have content to fill it."

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