Our press is under siege.
On July 7, 2017, the FCC filed a Public Notice regarding the proposed acquisition of 42 Tribune stations to the ultra conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. The acquisition by the FCC’s own website would give Sinclair a 72% Market Share which far surpasses allowable ownership by almost 25%. In the Public Notice, footnotes (pg 2) reveal an odd reduction in ownership in what appears to be a technicality, which appears to reduce the overage by only 6.5%:
 See 47 C.F.R. § 73.3555(b)(e)(1). In calculating an interest holder’s total ownership, the population attributed to a UHF television station is reduced by 50%. Id. at § 73.3555(b)(e)(2).
The FCC website lists the transaction and what is at issue. Odd that they do not state what it is, so we will. It’s a monopoly.
Pursuant to a merger agreement, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Sinclair) and Tribune Media Company (Tribute) have filed applications seeking Commission consent to transfer control of Tribune’s full-power broadcast televisions stations, low-power television stations, and TV translator stations to Sinclair. According to the Applicants, Sinclair owns or operates 173 broadcast television stations, consisting of 528 channels, in 81 markets, with affiliations with all major networks, and is the largest local news provider in the country; Tribune owns or operates 42 broadcast television stations in 33 markets, also with affiliations with all major networks. Tribune also owns cable network WGN America, digital multicast network Antenna TV and WGN-Radio. According to the Applicants, Tribune’s owns and operates broadcast television stations in the top three markets in the country, seven stations in the top ten markets, and 34 stations in the top 50 markets. The Applicants claim that under the proposed transaction, the combined company would reach 72 percent of U.S. television households and would own and operate the largest number of broadcast television stations of any station group.
The Applicants state that in twelve Nielsen Designated Market Areas (“DMAs”) Sinclair and Tribune each own a full-power broadcast television station; that in ten of those markets, current FCC regulations do not allow Sinclair to hold both licenses. The Applicants also state that the combined company would have a national audience reach in excess of the FCC’s current regulations but that they intend to take such actions as are necessary to comply with the Commission’s rules to obtain FCC approval of the applications.
Public Comment Closed on:
Petitions to Deny Date: 08/07/2017, Opposition Date: 08/22/2017
But a Protective order was placed on the transaction limiting the public’s right to review inclusive of the language “through appropriate representatives” :
While we are mindful of the sensitive nature of some of the information involved, we are
also mindful of the general right of the public, and our desire for the public, to participate in this
proceeding in a meaningful way. We find that allowing limited access to competitively sensitive
materials pursuant to the procedures set forth in this Protective Order allows the public (through appropriate representatives) to do so while also protecting competitively sensitive information from improper disclosure and use. Accordingly, sensibly balancing the public and private interests involved, we conclude that these procedures serve the public interest and adopting them “best conduce[s] to the proper dispatch of the Commission’s business and to the ends of justice.”1
The “stop clock” on the 180 review was paused in November 2017 for 15 days to “allow time” for the applicants to respond to a rather lengthy request for “clarification” and divesting strategy from Philsbury, Winthrop & Shaw. No further documentation has been placed on the FCC website for review.
Why does this matter? Watch John Oliver’s commentary. We can’t imagine or write a better narrative than this: