Is The FCC Trying To Give The DOJ Some Political Cover?
In a surprising move FCC Chair Ajit Pai announced his intent to refer the proposed acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting by Sinclair Broadcasting to an administrative judge. In plain English, Pai could have approved the merger with a simple 3-vote majority by the FCC. Instead he voiced “serious doubts” about the Sinclair takeover, noting that the combined entity would place 215 stations, reaching 72% of the US population, under one owner. The question before the judge will be to determine if this footprint would represent a media monopoly.
Nobody saw this one coming. Even if one company owns hundreds of local TV stations, it’s hard to envision that constituting a monopoly. In every major metro there are at least four network stations and hundreds of cable choices on the dial. So how could one operator control the market? Conspiracy theorists are wondering if a blatantly pro-Trump Sinclair is being put up as a sacrificial lamb to balance out the DOJ’s continued efforts to block the AT&T-Time Warner tie up. The thinking is that if the Trump administration tries to block a right-leaning media company than it will have more credibility to continue its war on the left. Of course AT&Ts attempt to acquire Time Warner is about 20x larger than the Sinclair-Tribune proposal, but math has never been an exact science in DC.
Interesting times, to say the least.