Coalition To Save Local Media Launches To Fight Sinclair-Tribune Merger

Note: NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is a member of the Coalition to Save Local Media. The following release was distributed by the Coalition on August 15, 2017. 

Coalition To Save Local Media Launches To Fight Sinclair-Tribune Merger
Media Organizations, Distributors, Independent Networks, Public Interest Groups, & Allies Join Forces To Protect Independent and Local News

 

For Immediate Release: August 15, 2017
Press Contact: Regan Page, at
regan@npstrategygroup.com 
(404) 661-0429

Today, a diverse group of media organizations, distributors, independent networks, public interest groups, and other allies joined forces to launch the Coalition to Save Local Media to stop the Sinclair-Tribune merger.

Through its acquisition of Tribune Media, Sinclair Broadcasting would stifle local and independent media voices and put profits ahead of their local viewers, jeopardizing both localism and competition. A combined Sinclair-Tribune would create the single largest operator of local broadcast stations in the country, reaching 72 percent of American households. This massive consolidation would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. Additionally, the combined company would effectively control the market for certain broadcast equipment and impede deployment of mobile broadband, limiting competition and choice for the distribution of content and broadband services nationwide.

The Coalition is nonpartisan and includes members on both sides of the aisle. Notably, the coalition includes members that have previously been on opposite sides of regulatory fights.

Founding members of the Coalition to Save Local Media include: American Cable Association, A Wealth of Entertainment channel, Cinemoi, Common Cause, Competitive Carriers Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, DISH, ITTA, Latino Victory Project, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, One America News Network, Public Knowledge, RIDE TV, the Sports Fans Coalition, and The Blaze.

“ACA urges the Federal Communications Commission to deny the proposed acquisition of Tribune by Sinclair,”said American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “The combination of the two companies would create a broadcasting behemoth with unprecedented control over both the national and local television markets, inflicting tremendous harm to competition and consumers.”

“If the Sinclair – Tribune merger is approved, consumers can expect higher cable bills, less meaningful choices, and a more homogeneous local news offering from broadcasters within a market and cross our country,”said Robert Herring, Founder and CEO of A Wealth of Entertainment and One America News Network. “Diverse, independent sources of news will be diminished. This merger yells to be stopped.”

“Regulators from both parties have approved media mergers that are effectively eliminating diverse voices from the airwaves,”said Roderick M. Sherwood, III, Co-Chairman and CEO of Cinemoi. “The Sinclair and Tribune merger is another step toward a dangerously high degree of industry consolidation where oligopolies will control everything we hear and see on TV and shut out independent, minority and women owned networks. The government must take a stand before it is too late.”

“This proposal should never have seen the light of day. It’s bad for consumers and bad for democracy. It does nothing for the public interest but everything for Big Broadcasting,”said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps.

“The very fact that there is such strong opposition to the Tribune/Sinclair transaction should send a clear signal to the FCC and the Department of Justice that this transaction should be denied,”said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO of Competitive Carriers Association. “If approved, the transaction would result in the largest aggregation of television broadcast holdings in the industry and would allow Sinclair to significantly impede the post-incentive auction repack by denying its rivals of critical inputs necessary to relocate in a timely manner.  Rural Americans deserve the latest mobile broadband services, which will ride on the 600 MHz spectrum that competitive carriers spent significant resources acquiring in the auction, and depend on a timely repack to put this spectrum to use to realize the benefits of the mobile economy.  CCA is glad to be a part of this coalition and looks forward to our collaborative efforts to ensure the transaction is denied.”

“We need a plurality of voices – not have a reversion to a central command and control approach that Sinclair infamously demands of its local stations,”said Ed Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association. “This principle is important culturally, economically and as a foundation for citizens participating in a democracy. We’re glad this group is coming together.”

“Through its proposed acquisition of Tribune, Sinclair would create the single largest operator of local broadcast stations in the country,”said Jeff Blum, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of DISH. “This massive consolidation jeopardizes both localism and competition, all to the detriment of consumers. If this merger is approved, Sinclair will be able to leverage its unprecedented market power to demand increasing fees from pay-TV providers, forcing consumers to pay higher prices. A combined Sinclair-Tribune will harm localism, including by scaling back local news operations and consolidating, duplicating, or even replacing local news programming. Customers, many of whom live in rural areas, rely on local news and weather delivered by a dedicated, community-based team.”

“The role of an independent, diverse news media is critical to the health of our democracy. At this pivotal moment for the American press, this proposed consolidation would erode public confidence in local media and limit access to unbiased information,” said Cristóbal J. Alex, President of Latino Victory Project. “We’re proud to join the Coalition in calling for the Federal Communications Commission to deny the merger.”

“Since the digital television transition reduced the effective range of broadcast stations years ago, many rural consumers can no longer obtain broadcast content over the air,”said Shirley Bloomfield, Chief Executive Officer, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “Rural America – and the broadcasters themselves – therefore rely more than ever on small cable and telecommunications companies to ensure consumers can watch local television. While the proposed merger offers a vague promise of ‘greater value’ to small video providers, real-world experience shows that larger broadcast conglomerates in general, and Sinclair in particular, charge small companies higher prices for the ‘privilege’ of delivering signals to consumers on behalf of the broadcasters. This translates to higher prices for rural consumers and undermines the ability of small providers to deploy and sustain advanced communications networks in rural areas.”

“The only way the Sinclair merger can gain approval is by utilizing an irrelevant, antiquity UHF discount ‘loop hole,’”said Charles Herring, President of One America News Network.  “It stinks of politics at its worst.  The excessive, unbalanced market power that Sinclair will wield post-merger, will hurt consumers and independent media voices.” 

“The proposed combination of Sinclair Broadcast Group with Tribune Media poses significant public interest harms to broadcast localism and would give Sinclair unrivaled retransmission consent leverage,”said Yosef Getachew, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge. “As a result, consumers would have fewer diverse and independent programming choices and pay higher cable prices. Public Knowledge opposes this merger as both companies have failed to show any positive public interest benefits.”

"RIDE TV invests millions of dollars in original, unduplicated, content each year for the 30 million Americans who ride horses-- many of whom are self-made, small business owners,” said Michael Fletcher, Chief Executive Officer, RIDE Television Network.  “As a result, our viewers are weary of a local news monopoly and understand that this transaction means less diversity of content and less opportunity for the programming they want.  We are concerned about the FCC's rush to judgement and regulatory sleight of hand on this deal, without adequate review of it's true impact on small business.”

“Sinclair's takeover of Tribune would penalize sports fans,”said Brian Hess, Executive Director of the Sports Fans Coalition. “Sinclair's history of buying TV stations and then firing the local sports reporters means less coverage of local high school football and basketball games, minor league games, and interviews with local players, coaches, and managers.  Sinclair's bullying tactics during contract negotiations with pay-TV providers led to the largest broadcast takedown in U.S. history and if Sinclair acquires Tribune, the problem will only get worse, leaving fans in the dark during playoff games and other key sporting events.  As Sinclair demands higher and higher fees from pay-TV providers, those costs will be passed on to consumers, leaving many fans unable to afford to watch their favorite teams on TV.  Finally, with Sinclair creating its own sports networks, it will do what other media conglomerates have done and move more games off free over-the-air broadcast to over-priced premium channels.  Fans are calling 'foul' on this transaction.”

Organizationally, the Coalition to Save Local Media is a 501(c)4. Learn more about the coalition at SaveLocalMedia.com.

 

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