Groups who have already signaled they want the FCC to block the proposed $3.9 billion merger of Sinclair and Tribune have branded that effort under a new group moniker, the Coalition to Save Local Media.
Members include activists, computer companies, MVPDs and independent programmers, who fear a heavied-up Sinclair is a threat to local news and viewpoint diversity and that the combined company will raise retrans fees and make it harder for competing programming to get shelf space on Sinclair properties, given that it owns Tennis Channel and WGN America cable nets.
They are also concerned about Sinclair's role in the transition to the ATSC 3.0 broadcast transmission standard given that it owns patents related to the technology and will have the largest group of stations making the move to new channels in the post-incentive auction repack.
Coalition members include the American Cable Association, Dish, Common Cause, Public Knowledge, Herring Networks, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, the Competitive Carriers Association and the Computer & Communications Industry Association.
“ACA urges the Federal Communications Commission to deny the proposed acquisition of Tribune by Sinclair,” said American Cable Association President Matt Polka. ACA, along with others in the coalition, have already filed petitions to deny the deal. “The combination of the two companies would create a broadcasting behemoth with unprecedented control over both the national and local television markets, inflicting tremendous harm to competition and consumers," said Polka.
“We need a plurality of voices – not have a reversion to a central command and control approach that Sinclair infamously demands of its local stations,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, whose members include Amazon, Google, Netflix and Facebook. “This principle is important culturally, economically and as a foundation for citizens participating in a democracy. We’re glad this group is coming together.”
Sinclair has told the FCC that the deal "will increase the merged company’s capability to serve the public by increasing its operational efficiencies, allowing Sinclair to upgrade the stations’ facilities, expand the stations’ local coverage (including local news), offer even greater value to multi-channel video distributors, and increase syndicated and original programming offerings."
The deal would create a 200-plus station group reaching over 70% of the national audience thanks in part to the FCC’s reinstatement of the UHF discount, which means broadcasters only have to count half of their audience toward the 39% national cap on audience reach.