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Sinclair-Tribune Deal On Life Support

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday issued its Hearing Designation Order (HDO) related to the Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed merger with Tribune Media.

The HDO, which sends Sinclair's proposed divestiture plan to a judge for an administrative review hearing, is often the FCC's first step toward denying a deal. The Communications Act requires the agency to give merger applicants a shot to make their case or abandon a proposed deal before the FCC moves to withhold approval.

As originally proposed, the Sinclair-Tribune deal would have given the broadcast giant control of more than 233 local TV stations reaching 72 percent of the country's population, far in excess of congressional and FCC limits on national and local media ownership.

In the HDO, the FCC challenges Sinclair's proposed divestiture plan in which control of several stations would be transferred to shell companies set up by the broadcaster.

"The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact 'sham' transactions," the HDO reads.

The FCC also suggests that Sinclair has "attempted to skirt the Commission's broadcast ownership rules" to complete the merger.

The FCC also notes a "potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor" in Sinclair's proposals and raises questions as to whether the deal is in the public interest.

"Sinclair's merger plans are all but dead," says Free Press Deputy Director and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González. "The FCC isn't biting on Sinclair's latest attempt to make its takeover of Tribune more palatable. This company has been misleading the FCC for years with front groups and shady arrangements to control local TV stations, undercut competition and evade FCC rules.

"The agency's order makes it clear that Sinclair's hopes of success are in deep trouble, with Republican and Democratic commissioners uniting to raise serious questions about the deal. We thank Chairman Pai and all of the FCC commissioners for holding Sinclair accountable. Commissioner Rosenworcel deserves particular praise for questioning this deal from day one.

"The FCC's order strongly suggests that Sinclair lied to the agency. If the judge in fact finds that Sinclair attempted to deceive the FCC, it could be grounds for the Commission to revoke all of Sinclair's licenses, not just the ones pertaining to this merger. Under the law, lack of candor suggests Sinclair is unfit to hold any broadcast licenses.

"Sinclair's shell-company scheme led the FCC to question the proposed merger, as it should. Free Press has repeatedly called Sinclair's bluff about this highly suspicious practice. It's encouraging that the FCC is acknowledging the facts and listening to the thousands of people who have spoken out against the deal.

"The commissioners' unanimous support for a hearing makes it clear that Sinclair's 11th-hour attempt to fix the deal won't improve the prospects for this ill-conceived merger. The broadcaster has a well-documented history of lying to the FCC. Approving any license transfers to such a disgraceful entity would harm the public interest.

"The FCC's conclusion that these spinoffs to shell companies would be sham divestitures is exactly right. But Sinclair uses identical sham arrangements in dozens of markets. We call on the FCC to review those and all other such shady ownership deals."

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See also:

* New York Times: As Momentum For Sinclair Deal Stalls, Tribune Considers Options.

* Politico: Rival Networks See Boost From Sinclair Deal's Likely Demise.

"For months, Sinclair has been laying the groundwork to launch a block of conservative TV programming, likely on WGN America, a Tribune cable network. "

* CNN Money: Rupert Murdoch's Summer Of Good Fortune.

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Previously:
* Item: Former Trump Aide Joins Sinclair.

* Trump's FCC Chair Continues To Shaft The Public, Offer Major Handouts To Big Media.

* Trump-Friendly Sinclair's Takeover Of Tribune TV Stations Brought To You By Trump's FCC Chairman.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Make The Air Fair.

* 'Maybe The Worst FCC I've Ever Seen.'

* A Pair Of Decades-Old Policies May Change The Way Rural America Gets Local News.

* Tribune's Disastrous Sale To Sinclair.

* Lawmakers Demand Answers About FCC's Favoritism Toward Sinclair.

* Can Anyone Stop Trump's FCC From Approving A Conservative Local News Empire?

* Sinclair's Flippant FCC Ruling.

* FCC Presses Sinclair For Answers On Tribune Merger.

* Trump FCC Eliminates Local Broadcast Main Studio Requirement In A Handout To Sinclair That Will Harm Local Communities.

* Trump's FCC Chairman Announces Plan To Scrap Media Ownership Limits Standing In Way Of Tribune-Sinclair Mega-Merger.

* Lisa Madigan et al. vs. Sinclair-Tribune.

* Local TV News Is About To Get Even Worse.

* Trump's Secret Weapon Against A Free Press.

* With Massive Handouts To Sinclair, FCC Clears Path To New Wave Of Media Consolidation.

* Trump FCC Opens Corporate Media Merger Floodgates.

* FCC Wraps New Gift For Sinclair.

* FCC Inspector General Investigating Sinclair Rulings.

* Behind Sinclair's 'Project Baltimore.'

* Don't Be Fooled By Sinclair's Shell Games.

* Free Press Sues The FCC For Dramatic Reversal Of Media Ownership Limits That Pave Way For Media Mergers.

* Thanks, Tribune Media, All You Did Was Weaken A Country.

* Sinclair-Fox Station Deal Enabled By FCC Is Dangerous For Democracy.

* The Sinclair Sham.

* Debunking The Broadcast Industry's Claims About Sinclair's Tribune Takeover.

* Surprise FCC Move Maims Sinclair-Tribune Merger.

* Sinclair Makes Last Ditch Effort To Salvage Tribune Merger. Will FCC Bite?

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See also:

* Sinclair Broadcast Group Solicits Its News Directors For Its Political Fundraising Efforts.

* FCC Plans To Fine Sinclair $13.3 million Over Undisclosed Commercials.

* Sinclair's New Media-Bashing Promos Rankle Local Anchors.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on July 20, 2018


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