WASHINGTON — On July 13, activists gathered at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters to protest Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, delivering over 670,000 petitions calling on the agency to reject the deal.
The merger, as originally proposed, would have given Sinclair, which is known for forcing its stations to replace original, local coverage with cookie-cutter content and “must-run” segments that push the political agenda of its owners, access to 72% of American households.
Participating organizations included the ACLU, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Free Press Action Fund and MPower Change. The Thursday action included a large video screen featuring a viral Deadspin video, in which dozens of Sinclair anchors are forced to read from a script provided by the company.
“Our democracy depends upon a free and unfettered press, and millions of Americans depend upon their local news stations for unbiased coverage of events and issues in their communities. No one media company should have this much power and control over the information we all depend on,” said Carli Stevenson, campaigner at Demand Progress. “We’re calling on the FCC to do its duty to act in the public’s best interest, and the public have made it clear they do not want Sinclair to take over their local news.”
“Whether it’s a viral video of all the local anchors robotically reading the same script or the scandalous giveaways it has gotten from the Trump FCC, the evidence against approving the Sinclair deal is overwhelming,” said Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron. “With Sinclair’s long history of using mergers to abandon localism and diversity in this way, the Commission must deny Sinclair’s proposed acquisition here if it intends to uphold its own public interest goals of promoting localism and diversity in broadcasting.”
“Sinclair’s biased, bigoted programming is harmful to Muslim communities and communities of color across the country,” said Mohammad Khan, campaign director of MPower Change. “The FCC’s transparently corrupt process to hand over even more control of public airwaves to Sinclair is just the latest piece of Chairman Pai’s agenda to serve massive corporations rather than the public. Sinclair’s takeover of Tribune would grant the company a near-monopolistic market share and even more power to spew harmful propaganda. The FCC must reject this merger.”
“If the dangers of media consolidation weren’t already obvious, then watching Sinclair during the Trump era should make them frighteningly clear,” said Brandy Doyle,campaign manager for CREDO Action. “The largest network in the country is sending local stations must-run segments defending Trump’s indefensible family separation policy. It’s a mouthpiece for a racist, extremist administration, and that should frighten anyone who cares about our democracy. Expanding this company’s reach even further is counter to the FCC’s mission of preserving a diverse media. The FCC must reject Sinclair’s proposed merger with the Tribune company.”
“Thousands of Common Cause members from across the country are taking action today to tell the FCC not to approve the Sinclair-Tribune merger,” said Yosef Getachew, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Program. “Our members believe that local news should reflect the concerns and interests of the communities they serve, not the will of a wealthy, powerful few. Unfortunately, Sinclair has proven time and again it seeks to eliminate local news by forcing its stations to air centrally produced must-run content even over the objections of local broadcasters. This merger will only further Sinclair’s efforts to disguise its editorialized content with the voices of trusted local broadcasters while reducing the amount of independent and diverse voices in our media. Now is the time for the FCC to listen to the thousands of Americans who’ve made their voices heard and block Sinclair’s merger.”