Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that aspects of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media will be subject to a review process by an administrative law judge.
“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction,” said Pai is a statement. “The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues. For these reasons, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would designate issues involving certain proposed divestitures for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.”
The announcement surprised many, as Aijit Pai is a Donald Trump appointee who was hostile to Net Neutrality and Sinclair Broadcast Group sseems to wwork hard in favor of the President.
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns WJAR/Channel 10 in the local Rhode Island market and is the largest television station operator in the United States by number of stations and total coverage. Since taking ownership of WJAR, Sinclair Media Group has mandated that WJAR include two minutes of right-wing or pro-Trump propaganda in local news broadcasts nine times a week, as they do in all their stations across the country.
Locally, Sinclair Media Group’s control of WJAR has been protested by Turn Off 10, a campaign coordinated by the Rhode Island ReSisters. The group has protested outside WJAR studios in Cranston and has targeted advertisers on the station such as Cardi Furniture andYork Shoes.
“Needless to say, we are extremely happy about this decision. It certainly reinforces the fact that public outcry DOES make a difference,” said Dr Patricia Ricci, speaking as a proud member of the RI ReSisters and Turn Off 10. “It is easy to become extremely discouraged, given the political climate within which we are currently submerged. Many people across the United States repeatedly called and submitted written opposition to the FCC. Despite Ajit Pai’s appointment, our collective voices were heard! We are now further emblazoned to soldier on locally to combat propaganda media.”
United States Representative David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island) issued a statement saying, “This is the right decision. If Sinclair buys Tribune, it will control the local TV news market. It will be able to raise costs, eliminate jobs, and threaten the integrity of local reporting.
“Media consolidation doesn’t just raise the possibility of higher prices on consumers—it raises far deeper concerns about the ability of corporate monopolies, motivated both by profit and politics, to influence public opinion by injecting or withholding information from elected officials and voters,” continued Cicilline. “Vigorous antitrust enforcement is one of the most important tools to protect our democracy against the concentration of economic power. The American people expect the FCC to prevent mergers like this one.”