September 30, 2023

US: Newsmax, conservative media oppose Sinclair deal

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CHICAGO – APRIL 02: Brass letters mark the main entrance to the Tribune Tower, headquarters of the Tribune Company, April 2, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The Tribune Company today announced the company was being taken private with an employee stock ownership plan headed by billionaire Sam Zell. With the deal the company also announced the sale of the Chicago Cubs and its stake in Comcast Sportsnet. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Mark Swanson

Newsmax and other conservative media outlets have voiced strong opposition to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media, citing concerns such a deal would undermine a free press and quash competition, The New York Times reported.

Newsmax filed a petition Monday with the Federal Communications Commission asking it deny Sinclair’s approval for its proposed nearly $4 billion merger with Tribune Media.

“A free and diverse press, a bedrock principle of American democracy, will be crippled by this proposed merger,” Newsmax said in its filing.

If the merger is approved, Sinclair would own stations reaching 72 percent of U.S. households.

Under current federal law, no station group can own stations reaching more than 39 percent of homes.

This “ownership cap,” first instituted in 1985 by the FCC under President Reagan, sought to prevent major networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS from owning local stations throughout the country and controlling local news programming.

But recently the FCC under President Trump redefined how homes are counted using a method that applied to UHF stations when technology did not allow those stations to fully broadcast into their markets.

The redefinition has been criticized as a political move to help Sinclair, a conservative-leaning station group, bypass the ownership cap.

“I like Sinclair and think they’re great,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said. “But by making these changes for Sinclair and subverting the ownership cap, the FCC is opening the barnyard door for NBC, CBS, and ABC to do the same thing.”

“If this deal is approved, local news shows, which are quite diverse and much less biased than the major networks, will get marching orders from New York executives,” he said.

Separately from Newsmax, One America News Network and The Blaze, the channel backed by Glenn Beck, filed petitions Monday with the FCC asking the merger be denied.

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“Regardless of political affiliation, we should agree that robust democracy demands a variety of viewpoints from a myriad of sources,” OAN and The Blaze wrote in their FCC filing. “Yet the wave of consolidation across the industry threatens this core value. And the Sinclair-Tribune merger would exacerbate this troubling tendency.”

Liberal organizations have come to accept the ownership cap as a good idea, seeing it as a way to limit corporate influence in Washington.

If the Sinclair merger goes through, experts are predicting most television stations could easily end up in the hands of just three major corporations.

“Even though they may be ideologically aligned, Newsmax and others see Sinclair is going to be so big that they’ll swallow up ad dollars and starve the conservative competition,” Craig Aaron, the president of the consumer advocacy group Free Press, told the Times.

Supporters of the Sinclair deal argue the ownership caps are not meaningful due to the Internet, where there is more open competition and access to news.

But a recent Pew study found 71 percent of Americans still get their news primarily from their local television station.

So far, the Internet has not helped create any significant competition for local news shows.

© 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

IMAGE: Brass letters mark the main entrance to the Tribune Tower, headquarters of the Tribune Company, in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty Images/Scott Olson)

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