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Sinclair-Tribune Critics Launch Ad Campaign

Seek Hill intervention in merger proposal 10/19/2017 4:47 PM Eastern

Opponents of the Sinclair/Tribune merger, which includes small and midsized cable operators, are launching an ad campaign targeting the proposed merger.

The Coalition to Save Local Media said it will be a national ad campaign with the message that the merger will stifle local and independent voices.

A source familiar with the six-figure campaign said it starts today on national cable and will run for three weeks.

The campaign launches just as the FCC has paused its review of the merger to give commenters a chance to weigh in. The FCC asked Sinclair for a better explanation of the deal's asserted benefits and how Sinclair would come into compliance with FCC ownership rules.

Pausing mergers is not unusual—it is an informal, 180-day shot clock often honored in the breach—though in this case it was for more time for public comment, which is not as regular an occurrence.

The ad calls on the audience to "Protect your local news. Contact Congress and tell them to deny the Sinclair-Tribune merger." Actually, it is the FCC, not Congress, that can approve or deny the deal, though legislators can make their wishes known, as many Democrats have in calling for the merger to be blocked and more are likely to do so at a House FCC oversight hearing Oct. 25.

Coalition members include the American Cable Association, Common Cause and Dish.

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, who shares the coalition's concerns about the merger's impact on independent voices, like this, siad that Congress clearly wants a more thorough review of the merger. He said Sinclair's response to the FCC's second request for information was "very weak."

Ruddy said recent FCC decisions—restoring the UHF, planning to eliminate the requirement of a studio in local markets—appear to be favoring one company, rather than following a reasonable review process. He said people on the Hill "are just waking up to that fact," which could explain the coalition's call to arms. 

Ruddy said he was also trying to get his Newsmax readership up to speed on the issue. Thursday (Oct. 19) the home page included just such a story—from Bloomberg and featuring an interview with Ruddy—under the headline: Newsmax, Conservative Networks Oppose Sinclair Deal. Newsmax also featured a guest column taking aim at the deal.

In other Tribune news, the shareholders voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the deal if the FCC and Justice Department do, and In Seattle, the union representing news photographers at Sinclair's KOMO said they will learn Monday from Sinclair management whether its members keep their jobs if Sinclair buys Tribune's KCPQ-TV there. That will be when the union, IATSE and Sinclair are scheduled to resume contract negotiations.

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