Ever since Sports Fans Coalition came out against the proposed Sinclair/Tribune merger, we have watched as Official Washington seems to be greasing the gears for this anti-fan deal. In the latest twist, following FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to eliminate the Main Studio Rule, the FCC voted today 3-2 to eliminate the rule. Now, without the rule, Sinclair won't even have to pretend like they’re local.
The Main Studio Rule required that a local broadcaster maintain a studio in the community of license. It protected localism. Which, as we've addressed before, is paramount to the FCC's mandate to enforce policies requiring broadcasters work in the public interest. This rule was good for sports fans because it ensured access to local sports programming, like high school games or local talk shows. Sports programming is a pillar of broadcast television and to remove that from the air would undermine the very mandate the FCC is required to uphold.
Why is this vote so worrisome? Sinclair already has a habit of gutting newsrooms when they acquire new stations. They completely removed the sports departments of acquired stations in Oklahoma City and Rochester, New York. David Smith of Sinclair has a history of firing local talent and studio workers to make room for national news coverage that masquerades as local.
The elimination of the Main Studio Rule only makes it easier for Sinclair to force its poor sports reporting down the throats of fans nationwide. We at Sports Fans Coalition actually like Chairman Pai. Back when he was a commissioner, he worked with us to end the Sports Blackout Rule. He cares about sports fans, so it's disappointing that he and the commission voted to allow the continued gutting of local sports coverage.