Free Press Slams Sinclair/Allbritton Deal

Says FCC Should Scrutinize Joint Sales, Services Agreements

"The rapid and massive expansion of Sinclair Broadcast Group is unwelcome news for local TV viewers," Free Press President Craig Aaron said Monday, responding to the news Sinclair was buying Allbritton's TV stations and its D.C. regional cable news net. "The company's cookie-cutter approach to local news and repeated use of the airwaves to push a partisan agenda are well known. But the idea that one company should be allowed to control so many stations in so many markets is simply outrageous. What will it take for the FCC to wake up?

"The FCC needs to scrutinize these proposed deals and stop allowing covert consolidation through shared services agreements," Aaron said. "In particular, it should require stations Sinclair has indicated it will put up for sale as part of this deal to be sold to independent competitors, not Sinclair front groups."

Sinclair said it would have to sell four stations in three markets, but would "provide sales and other non-programming support services to each of these stations pursuant to customary shared services and joint sales agreements."

Free Press last week joined with various other groups to file a petition to block the sale of some of the Belo stations to Gannett, citing the issue of shared services agreements. Gannett indicated it would provide those services to the stations it was spinning off to third parties, one of which was a former top Belo executive.