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

In a tweet Monday morning, President Donald Trump praised conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is seeking his administration's approval of a proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media.

Free Press, which has asked the FCC to deny the transfer of Tribune broadcast licenses to Sinclair, has called on Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to recuse himself from the merger proceeding. The agency's inspector general's office is investigating rulings during Pai's tenure that have helped pave the way for the proposed deal by removing limits on how many stations a company can control in a single city.

If approved, the merger would give Sinclair control of more than 233 local TV stations reaching 72 percent of the country's population, far in excess of congressional limits on national broadcast audience reach.

The president's tweet follows a viral video made by Deadspin showing local Sinclair newscasters in several markets forced to read from a script repeating many of Trump's talking points about "fake news" coverage, a favorite theme of his administration.

For more than a decade, Free Press has fought Sinclair's unlawful expansion and its misuse of the public airwaves to push a reactionary agenda. Over the past year, Free Press has raised serious concerns that Pai was acting deliberately to lift any public-interest safeguards that would prevent Sinclair's massive merger from being approved. In February, Free Press called on Pai to recuse himself from all decisions related to the Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed takeover of Tribune Media.

In August 2017, Free Press filed a formal challenge to the proposed deal, stating that the transfer of station licenses would give Sinclair a broadcast reach far in excess of congressional and FCC limits on national and local media ownership, and would harm the public interest. Free Press and other groups have challenged the FCC's April 2017 decision to reinstate the UHF discount, which allows conglomerates to use an obsolete rule to undercount the stations they own.

In March 2018, Free Press filed a lawsuit, joined by Common Cause, Communications Workers of America and the, United Church of Christ, to overturn the FCC's December ruling to repeal local media-ownership limits that stood in the way of the deal.

"Sinclair has long tried to evade the rules preventing it from using the public airwaves to push its reactionary political agenda to a national TV news audience," Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron says. "It's now found a friend and ally in the Trump administration, and is eager to air pro-Trump propaganda in exchange for policy favors that let Sinclair get even bigger.

"For its part, the FCC seems intent on looking the other way as long as the media merger in question involves a friend of the administration. Never mind that such consolidation undercuts local reporting, forces journalists to read canned propaganda to keep their jobs, and harms communities with coverage that regularly traffics in racist stereotypes and right-wing conspiracy theories.

"This Trump-Sinclair love affair looks like a quid pro quo - and it should be a national scandal. If the deal is allowed to proceed, it would expand the company's long-standing pattern of evading public-interest obligations and abusing its market power to score political points, spread propaganda and serve Trump's political agenda. That's why we have asked the FCC and Justice Department to reject this deal. If they don't, the courts must step in to protect the public airwaves and unplug Trump TV."

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Beachwood Added Value:

"We aren't sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences," said Scott Livingston, Sinclair's senior vice president of news, in an e-mailed statement," Bloomberg reports (emphasis mine).

"The promos served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information."

The e-mail could not be reached for follow-up questions, though sources familiar with Livingston's thinking say the e-mail was quite satisfied to have weaseled its way into news stories without scrutiny.

*

"Sinclair Broadcast Group president and CEO Christopher S. Ripley told me in an e-mail that his stations' "commentary offers a viewpoint that may be ignored by other organizations," Mike Allen "reports" for Axios.

"[O]ur critics are stretching to prove a non-business or sinister intent that just simply does not exist."

And I won't deign to answer them in any form but e-mails to friendly reporters!

*

When I asked Ripley if he'd run this promo campaign again, or give local stations more flexibility next time [because that's the most salient question on most Americans' minds], he replied: "The objective of the campaign was to increase viewership so it will either succeed in that regard or not and that is how I would determine if we would do this campaign again."

So if forcing news anchors around the country to run canned liberal statements would increase viewership, you'd do that instead?

*

AGAIN: E-mail interviews are not interviews, they are requests to news subjects to send in public relations statements to be inserted into articles without vetting or assessment of journalistic value, which is almost always nil. "Please send me a fake comment and I'll put it in the story! Really! I'm that lazy!" At least charge a fee if you're going to weave free passes into your work.

*

But they did it. Many of them with a smile. At least Good Germans had guns to their heads - or the threat thereof - when they did bad deeds.

*

Check that - almost all of them did it. One exception so far:

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Finally, what is Tribune Media's responsibility in all of this? I understand they, like much of Corporate America, labor under the belief that maximizing value for shareholders is legally the end-all be-all and they have no choice but to sell to the highest bidder, even if the bidder is the Daily Stormer, but were there other bids? Was there another way out? (And did the really have to kick the Tribune out of Tribune Tower? People who run their lives this way . . . unfortunately, their pathological values are rewarded most in our culture, so we must toil under their sick rule. You can either go along - live each day performing the equivalent of reading Sinclair's canned statements - or friggin' stand up for yourself and say, "No.")

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From Wikipedia:

"On March 1, 2017, reports surfaced that Sinclair was in discussions to acquire Tribune, which was approached by Sinclair management about a possible merger in late February . . .

"The reports of Sinclair's interest in acquiring Tribune led several unnamed station owners - which also inquired about purchasing some or all of Tribune's assets outright or through a consortium - as well as Tribune shareholder Starboard Value to approach 21st Century Fox about taking options to thwart the deal as a defensive measure . . .

"Fox was considering a partnership with private equity firm The Blackstone Group - in which Blackstone would help finance the acquisition, while Fox would contribute its existing owned-and-operated stations to the joint venture - to bid for Tribune.

"Fox eventually dropped its bid for the company shortly before final bids were submitted to Tribune board members and shareholders on May 5, after it and Blackstone were unable to agree on an offer structure in such a short time period . . .

"[O]n May 8 . . . Sinclair announced that it would acquire Tribune for $3.9 billion, along with the assumption of Tribune's $2.7 billion debt load; it beat Nexstar Media Group, which was not willing to make a higher bid closer to Tribune's appraisal price, for the stations."

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For that matter, did Tribune Media really have to sell itself, or was that just a great way for its last string of itinerant corporate overlords to cash out? (Ugh, the question answers itself, doesn't it?)

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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.

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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 April 3, 2018


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