Monday morning, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the conservative media behemoth that owns more local news stations than any other company in the country, just got even bigger. It announced it was buying Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, creating what Bloomberg (5/8/17) calls a “TV goliath.”
The purchase, which gives Sinclair a staggering reach of nearly 69 percent of the US population (Free Press, 5/8/17), would’ve been in violation of ownership restrictions just weeks ago. But last month, the Trump-appointed FCC chair, Ajit Pai, reinstated the “UHF discount,” an outdated loophole that allowed media conglomerates to exceed the nation’s 39 percent cap on ownership (New York Post, 4/20/17). Sinclair made a $420 million deal to buy Bonten Media Group (Baltimore Sun, 4/21/17) the very next day.
This sequence of events “sure looks like a quid pro quo,” as Craig Aaron of the media advocacy group Free Press has noted (5/8/17). Months ago, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives, according to Politico (12/16/16), that “Trump’s campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better coverage.” The deal, Politico reported, was that Sinclair would give Trump more (uncritical) coverage (Washington Post, 12/22/16) in exchange for more “access to Trump and the campaign.”
Now, Trump appears to be using the considerable power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as his own personal ATM for political currency—and his Big Media allies at Sinclair are now seeing the return on their investment.
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- List of stations owned or operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group