FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is casting suspicions on recent FCC actions that seemingly helped accommodate Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.
During a speech today before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, of all places, Rosenworcel voiced concerns over a merger which would give one company reach into more than 70 million U.S. households. She also said recent developments at the FCC appeared to be helping this merger happen.
“Before I returned to the commission, the agency inexplicably resurrected an outdated and scientifically inaccurate system for tallying station ownership, known as the UHF discount. It also reversed an effort to investigate joint sales agreements. Both steps helped speed the way for this transaction—which would combine two broadcasting giants: Tribune and Sinclair,” Rosenworcel said.
“I’m not alone in my concerns about the concentration that will result from this proposed transaction. I’m not alone in my fear that it will do harm to the time-tested principles of diversity, localism and competition. There is opposition across the political spectrum.”
Indeed, the Sinclair-Tribune deal has seen pushback from numerous parties.
Earlier this month, a group of Democratic senators, along with independent Bernie Sanders, targeted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai over the UHF discount reinstatement and other media ownership rule change plans.
“The steps you have taken since you were elevated to chair of the agency, in concert with your reported plans to act on additional media ownership issues this fall, undercut—and threaten to do permanent damage to—the American tradition of local broadcasting,” the Senators wrote, urging him to hold off on further reforms until thoroughly reviewing the broadcast industry.
Before that, Democrats in the House also called out Pai and demanded an explanation for the rule changes.
“Whether I have been pushing for the revitalization of AM radio or fighting to ensure that broadcast television stations were treated fairly in the incentive auction proceeding, my actions have been motivated by my belief that a strong over-the-air broadcast service advances the public interest. They have not been fueled by a desire to help any particular company,” Pai wrote in a response.