FCC Chairman Rejects Sinclair-Tribune Merger, Despite Criticism from Trump

The Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday stated that President Donald Trump criticizing the FCC is not going to influence their decision to reject Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media.

“I stand by our decision,” Ajit Pai stated during an oversight hearing before the House Commerce Committee’s technology and communications panel.

According to The Hill, Pai refused to address directly Trump’s criticism of the agency after it decided last week to subject the $3.9 billion merger to an administrative law proceeding, a process that will likely doom the deal’s chance of obtaining regulatory approval.

On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted that it was “unfair” of the FCC to crack down on the deal.

“So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,” the President wrote. “This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People. Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast get approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!”

The FCC last week voted unanimously against approving the Sinclair/Tribune deal. Sinclair needed to divest some stations in order to stay under federal ownership limits, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the company’s proposal to divest certain stations “would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”

If no divestitures were made, the merger would let Sinclair reach 72 percent of US television households. Sinclair owns or operates 173 broadcast TV stations in 81 markets, while Tribune has 42 stations in 33 markets.

The merger was opposed by Democratic lawmakers, consumer advocacy groups, small cable companies, and Sinclair competitors.

Sinclair is known for having a right-wing bias and for requiring its news stations to run certain political segments. In one recent case, Sinclair forced local TV news anchors to read a script that echoed President Trump’s complaints about “fake” news stories. Trump loved the segment, tweeting that “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

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