Kilmartin Objects To Sinclair Broadcast Group's Merger With Tribune Media

Nov 6, 2017

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is among 4 attorneys general calling on the Federal Communications Commission to reject the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns WJAR-TV, Channel 10, and Tribune Media.

In a filing to the FCC dated last Thursday, the AGs say the merger would fail to further the public interest, a requirement of the Communications Act of 1934, while decreasing "consumer choices and voices in the marketplace."

"The FCC has acknowledged that the combination of Sinclair and Tribune’s television stations would create an entity capable of reaching 72 percent of U.S. television households," according to the filing submitted by Illinois' Office of Attorney General. "Even if Sinclair is permitted to use an obsolete method for calculating its reach, its estimated market share would still be 45.2 percent, above the statutory limit for national audience reach of 39 percent. Sinclair would need to still divest certain entities to bring it below the permissible cap of 39 percent."

Maryland-based Sinclair owns close to 200 television stations, and would add 42 more if the FCC approves the company's merger with Tribune Media.

Scott Livingston, a Sinclair spokesman, has not responded to a request for comment.

Sinclair has come under fire for requiring its local stations, including WJAR, to run segments with a conservative flavor, such as commentary by a former Trump administration official.

In July, Politico obtained a memo written by Livington: "Livingston argues in the memo that while it’s true Sinclair issues 'must run' content, media reports which say they are of 'poor quality' and 'politically tilted' are not true, and that 'must runs' amount to less than one hour per week, on average, of Sinclair stations' coverage, compared with more than 35 hours of local news. Plus, he argued that such commentary provides a viewpoint not usually found in the national media."