Cantwell, Udall Lead Group Of Senators in Call for FCC to Investigate Sinclair Broadcasting for Alleged News Distortion
April 12, 2018
Letter to Chairman Ajit Pai comes amidst reports Sinclair forced local news anchors around the country to read alleged politically-slanted scripts; Senators also urge Chairman Pai to pause proposed Sinclair-Tribune Media merger
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – On Wednesday U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Tom Udall (D-NM), along with 10 of their Senate colleagues, called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate Sinclair Broadcasting Group for “deliberately distorting news, calling into question the company’s fitness to retain its existing broadcast licenses, as well as its ongoing attempts to acquire more broadcasting rights through its proposed merger with Tribune Media Company,” said a statement from Cantwell’s office.
In the letter, found here the senators expressed concern about local news anchors at Sinclair-owned stations around the country being allegedly forced to read Sinclair corporate mandated scripts on the air.
“We have strong concerns that Sinclair has violated the public interest obligation inherent in holding broadcast licenses. 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),” the senators wrote.
In light of this recent information, the senators also called into question Sinclair’s conduct and called on the FCC to pause the merger to allow for further public comment.
“We are concerned that Sinclair is engaged in a systematic news distortion operation that seeks to undermine freedom of the press and the robust localism and diversity of viewpoint that is the foundation of our national broadcasting laws,” the senators continued. “Because of the new facts that have come to light with regard to Sinclair’s misconduct and abuse of the public trust pertaining to its existing broadcast licenses, we believe it is appropriate to pause the pending Sinclair-Tribune merger review and reopen the agency record on the transaction so that the FCC can receive another full round of robust public comments.”
Sinclair announced its intention to buy Tribune Media in May of 2017, a move that came under scrutiny by antitrust enforcement officials in the federal government.
The proposed merger would create a “giant media corporation” according to Cantwell that would own 223 TV stations in 108 different media markets, with access to 72% of U.S. households.
Senators Cantwell and Udall have repeatedly expressed concerns about the proposed merger and raised questions about a possible quid pro quo between Sinclair, members of the Trump Administration, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
In November, the senators, along with 13 of their colleagues, called for an impartial investigation into the objectivity and impartiality of the FCC’s review of the merger.
As a result of the senators’ request, the FCC inspector general commenced an investigation into whether Pai pushed to loosen broadcaster rules to benefit Sinclair.
In addition to Senators Cantwell and Udall, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).