Tribune’s announcement that it ended the buyout agreement with Sinclair this week represents the end of a year-long battle between SFC, business interests, and other public interest advocates and Sinclair. Now that the $3.9 Billion takeover is over, let’s look at a few of the highlights that created a true underdog story.
Last year, Sinclair Broadcasting Group announced its intent to purchase Tribune Media and effectively gain access to 70% of television households. Knowing the danger that Sinclair poses to sports access, SFC filed a petition to deny at the Federal Communication Commission. We identified three primary ways Sinclair would harm sports fans.
- Their propensity to fire local sports reporters
- Their frequent game blackouts
- And, their bundling power with cable channels that will force out other sports programming.
The acquisition started off strong, and it looked as though it was going to sail through the process. The deregulation efforts of Chairman Pai and the Republican commissioners read more like a Sinclair wishlist than responsible governing. It was the elimination of the Main Studio Rule that led us to accuse the commission of favoring Sinclair like the refs favor the Patriots.
At the half, the Sinclair was dominating the score. But our ragtag team on the Coalition to Save Local Media didn’t give up. We caught our break when the FCC, concerned with Sinclair’s lack of candor, sent the merger to an Administrative Law Judge, meaning the merger was all but dead. It’s at this point that SFC and a few other advocates mailed the Tribune Media Board of Directors a letter explaining that they should drop out of the deal and protect their falling stock price. On August 8th, they took our advice.
The fight against Sinclair was a true American underdog story. Against overwhelming odds, dozens of advocates stuck together and continued the fight for more than a year. We’re thrilled that we won this one, but the season is far from over.
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