Sinclair Merger Battle a Clash to Protect Special Interests, Censor Conservative Voices, Distort Democracy

by Mike Wendy on April 23, 2018

Senator Maria Cantwell – Censor.

A couple of days ago, Senator Maria Cantwell and 10 Democrat Senators sent a letter to FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, urging him to put a spanner in the works of Sinclair Broadcasting’s proposed merger with the Tribune Company.

Sinclair’s crime (on top of it being a conservative voice in a sea progressive media organizations)? In their estimation, it’s violating the FCC’s arcane, rarely used “news distortion” policy.

Says the letter:

“…Sinclair may have violated the FCC’s longstanding policy against broadcast licensees deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information (traditionally known as the news distortion standard). Multiple news outlets report that Sinclair has been forcing local news anchors to read Sinclair-mandated scripts warning of the dangers of “one-sided news stories plaguing our country,” over the protests from local news teams.

“As strong defenders of the First Amendment, guarantees of free speech and freedom of the press, we are alarmed by such practices. In the United States, the airwaves belong to the American people…”

Take a deep breath, Senators. It was only a promo touting the company’s efforts to weed out one-sided, fake news for its viewers, presenting, in its view, a more balanced product than its competitors (much like CNN and other news outlets have branded themselves in the wake of the fake news crisis).

What got the Senators going (again – it doesn’t take much) was a fake news video mashup by the sports blog Deadspin, which spliced together anchors from Sinclair’s different properties reading the promo, purposely making Sinclair look “creepy” in an intentional demonstration against the purported “evils” of the merger and its alleged effect of removing diversity from America’s newsrooms.

That video viral, making great fodder for anti-conservative pundits, late night TV, and Democrats – all of whom who want to stop the merger.

A simple promo blown out of proportion, recklessly conflated as news.

Goodness.

Anyway, Senator Cantwell’s letter has nothing to do with the First Amendment, and everything to do with the chokehold political parties, interest groups, trade associations and their agendas have on using FCC-granted airwaves to control networks – to their ends:

For Maria Cantwell and the DNC, they want to stop Sinclair and its bid to open up the airwaves to more conservative voices.

For Deadspin, its staff seemingly wants to punish a suitor – Univision, of which Sinclair owns 7 of its affiliates – for the purchase of its parent corporation, bringing with it a slew of hard changes to its operation after it was sued out of business by Hulk Hogan and (conservative activist) Peter Thiel.

For the Coalition to Save Local Media, it wants to keep programming and other competitive costs down for its members, which it feels won’t happen if Sinclair becomes bigger as a result of the merger.

For “media reform” groups like Free Press, they want to end all corporate media – especially networked conservative outlets – so that government elites can choose what our digital broccoli is.

And for the liberal media (which so gladly trafficked in the Deadspin video), aside from quotidian competitive concerns, they want to do anything they can to stop conservative outlets from hedging-in on their hegemony over information.

If these groups are so concerned about the First Amendment and “news distortion,” they should take a good hard look in the mirror.  The way they’ve gamed the Sinclair merger process distorts not only the competitive information marketplace, but, more importantly, Democracy itself.

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