The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to reject Sinclair Broadcasting’s last-minute effort to get approval for a proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, sending concerns about the deal to an administrative law judge for hearings.
The New York Times called the move “ominous” for the merger, and the formal FCC order will be released in Thursday.
Sinclair’s 11th hour plan to put two contested stations into a trust and to own powerhouse Chicago station WGN outright, apparently didn’t pass the smell test at the FCC.
"The FCC is investigating Sinclair on whether they have been candid with the commission about their divestiture plan," Fox News’ Charles Gasparino told host Neil Cavuto Wednesday afternoon.
"If the FCC says they were not candid, if this thing goes before administrative law judge — the way Sinclair was divesting from the networks — I tell you this is funky divestiture, if you look at it."
According to press reports, the previous draft order that circulated to FCC members on Monday, proposed to hold hearings over Sinclair’s failure to properly divest itself of stations and of deception in dealing with the commission.
If the hearings conclude Sinclair did engage in deception, they could be subject to penalties.
In its initial merger plan, Sinclair sought to expand its reach from 39 percent of U.S. homes – to more than 70 percent. If the merger had been ratified, it would broken the long-held ownership limitation cap for major TV networks.
“The FCC under Ajit Pai acted with courage and fairness,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said. “It is clear they gave Sinclair every benefit of the doubt in an unusually long process and they simply would not comply with the rules that should be applied equally to all companies.”
Ruddy noted that the decision will benefit conservatives and President Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020.
“If this deal had gone through, it would have given NBC, CBS and NBC the greenlight to buy local TV stations in swing states across the nation, controlling local news and giving New York media tremendous influence.”
Other conservatives had strongly opposed the Sinclair merger on similar grounds, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and author Craig Shirley.
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