There was an interesting take on the Sinclair/Tribune deal printed in the LA Daily News.
The story was written by a person you might have heard of and it talks about why the deal is bad for broadcasting.
The story reads, it was announced on Monday morning that Sinclair Broadcast Group had agreed to purchase the Tribune Media television stations for $3.9 billon dollars.
If the deal is approved, local news could take a real hit.
Sinclair is known in the broadcast industry as a company that is very tight with the money. Many of the people you see on the Tribune stations, including WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles (which has been delivering local news since 1947), may be forced out or told they need to take a salary cut. Some station groups like to run their companies lean ... Sinclair is down right anorexic.
Viewers may soon lose their favorite newscasters to the Sinclair budget ax, and it will be harder for an ex-Sinclair employee to find another job, because Sinclair will own most of the stations.
From an editorial standpoint, the lack of objectivity may end up missing from the Tribune stations.
Right now, when you watch a Tribune station, you get both sides of the story presented in a (sorry, Fox News) fair and balanced way. That likely will not happen with Sinclair because it is a conservative company.
One ex-Sinclair employee told my website, FTVLive, that Sinclair looks at Fox News as being too liberal.
It’s one thing for Fox News to lean right or CNN and MSNBC to lean left. Those are cable news stations and that is part of their fabric. When you watch Fox News, CNN or MSNBC you know you are getting the story with their political leanings attached.
But, when you watch local news, you want to leave the politics aside and just get the story reported to you objectively and without bias. With Sinclair calling the shots, the idea of unbiased news seems unlikely.
Owning the Tribune stations gives Sinclair a much bigger megaphone.
Before the election, Sinclair would never have been able to buy the Tribune stations because of Federal Communications Commission ownership rules. The rules would not let one company own so many stations that their reach would exceed 39 percent of television households in the United States.
If this deal goes through, Sinclair will have about an 80 percent reach. In other words, Sinclair could reach 40 percent more U.S. TV viewers than any other TV ownership group.
Right after the November election, Politico and The Washington Post reported that Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told business executives the campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair that would have the TV ownership group give Trump and his campaign favorable coverage. Sinclair denies such a deal was reached.
Shortly after Trump took office, the FCC announced that they would relax the ownership guidelines and that set the way for Sinclair to buy Tribune and become a broadcasting giant with huge reach.
On a Sinclair conference call on Monday, the company tried to spin the deal as being all about the money. But you can bet it’s also about controlling the message.
There are a number of reasons why this borderline monopoly is bad for some many people.
With Sinclair controlling so many stations, this will put the squeeze on advertisers. Before, if an ad buyer wanted to put his message on a station, he or she would contact the station’s sales people and get a rate. The buyer then could decide if he wanted to pay that rate and place his ad, or contact a different station in the market and see what their rate is?
Now, with consolidation and companies like Sinclair becoming so big, the buyer may be forced to pay the higher amount and really won’t be able to shop for a better price.
This deal may be a good one for Tribune and Sinclair investors, but it is likely bad for just about everyone else.
I really hope I’m wrong, but sadly I don’t think I am.
As they say in TV ... Stay tuned.