FCC Throws a Legal Wrench in Sinclair Merger

The conservative broadcaster now needs to get a judge’s approval for its mega-merger to go forward.

Sinclair's merger with Tribune Media will now face judicial review.Sipa USA/ Ap Images

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Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced on Monday that the organization would vote to allow an administrative judge to review proposed action to allow for Sinclair Broadcasting Group to finalize a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media. The chairman, who previously championed the measure, cited “serious concerns” about the merger, which could allow Sinclair to control stations “in violation of the law.” If the merger goes through, Sinclair, an unabashedly pro-President Trump network that mixes conservative programming alongside local news, would own local TV stations reaching a large majority of the country.

“When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction,” Pai said in a statement to the press. “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 Sinclair merger has long been a concern of Democrats during the FCC’s new push to deregulate broadcasters. In November, the Republican-lead agency voted 3-5 along party lines to eliminate other regulations for local media ownership, including rules that blocked a media company from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. A final vote to eliminate the current ownership caps for broadcasters, which was rumored to happen this summer, would have cleared the way for Sinclair to complete a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media. If the merger is approved, the pro-Trump broadcaster would reach 72 percent of American homes

Today’s announcement is a surprising one for Pai, who is currently the subject of an investigation by the FCC’s investigator general over whether or not Pai improperly pushed for a merger that would benefit Sinclair.  

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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