Concerns, political and commercial, over Sinclair’s dominance of local TV

August 8, 2017

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest television broadcaster, is set to expand its reach into nearly three-quarters of American households, a prospect that has elicited concerns both commercial and ideological. Known for pushing “must-run” segments of reliably conservative political commentary, Sinclair’s expansion has raised hackles among media watchdog groups.

In May, the Maryland-based Sinclair announced its $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media Co., which would expand its reach to major markets including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The deal, Politico’s Margaret Harding McGill and John Hendel report, would not be possible if not for a decision by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to revive a decades-old regulatory loophole that will keep Sinclair from vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership. By adding 42 Tribune stations to the 173 it already owns, Sinclair will be in 72 percent of American homes, a number that would far exceed the federal limit on media ownership if not for Pai’s action.

Opposition to the deal is coalescing, if belatedly, across the media landscape. “Pushback against Sinclair’s growing dominance is coming in all forms, shapes and sizes—even from its ideological allies,” writes Axios’ David McCabe. Executives from smaller conservative outlets like One America News Network to industry groups like the American Cable Association are urging the FCC to reject the merger, claiming that such consolidation would result in less competition and higher prices for consumers. Given Pai’s previous statements, however, resistance to the deal appears futile.

Below, more on one of the most important media players that you may not know much about.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.