Sinclair sinks, Trump’s temper, Cox’s cash value

There’s something to be said for waiting before starting to write. That’s not my nature. I want to get things out first. I type very well but nobody can do it as quickly as my brain, so I often dictate into a phone and email myself. Then, I make any corrections and additions, and create the graphics and email preferences.

But this saga of Sinclair Broadcast Group trying to buy Tribune Media that has been going on for more than a year and suddenly failing last week – supposedly failing – is full of interesting details.

NO sinclair tribune

I wrote about a lot of them, Tuesday night. That was mostly background. You know how little I admire Sinclair and the people who run it. Tonight, you’ll see exactly what went wrong for the deal and what I think should be done. Let’s just say what went wrong could’ve been a lot of what I wrote Tuesday night!

I’m going to suggest starting by reading that last post, if you haven’t. It gives a lot of background about why Sinclair is so despised – that I’ve written about for months but conveniently put in one place – so there’s no sense repeating it here.

cox media group

But first, the latest, and that’s Cox Media Group – one of the best corporations owning TV stations out there, and a private one – is exploring putting itself up for sale.

Yesterday, FTVLlive’s Scott Jones got a secret copy of the talking points Cox managers are supposed to use while talking to employees. Let’s face it, “talking points” is another phrase meaning public relations. In other words, they’re trying to convince the workers to keep working extra hard because everything is going to be great! (I hope you used your best Tony the Tiger when you read that.)

Of course, that’s not how employees are feeling. When your company suddenly sets itself up to be bought, there is lots of uncertainty. You know spending will go down and jobs will not be filled, so the company’s financials look more attractive. And being bought by another major established company could lead to layoffs. But you know that’s not in the talking points which you can see below in this six-page slideshow.

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Cox’s 14 TV stations are pretty good and most are highly-rated ones. From left to right, by row, they’re the ABC affiliate in Atlanta; ABC and independent in Orlando; Fox in Boston; CBS in Seattle; NBC in Pittsburgh; ABC and independent in Charlotte; Fox and CBS in Jacksonville; Fox in Memphis; CBS in Dayton, Ohio; Fox in Tulsa, Okla.; and also a “supply-side platform that brings automation and data-driven targeting to the buying and selling of television advertising” called Videa.

cox stations

There are also 61 radio stations, 4 daily newspapers, 11 non-daily papers, 16 digital brands, and one local cable channel.

FTVLive’s Scott Jones also got a market analyst report from Wells Fargo about how much Cox Media may be worth. The answer it gives is $2.65 billion, but consider many factors including the number of willing buyers, whether the stations get split up, and whether Tribune goes back on the market.

wells fargo cox

See Tuesday’s post for a lot more links to, and details on, the rest of Atlanta-based Cox.

So FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was arguably putting himself on the line while supporting the Sinclair-Tribune merger when surprisingly, last week, he said in a statement:

“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune transaction. … The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. … When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues.”

How surprising?

Pai embraced the merger so much, he’s under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for allegedly greasing the wheels by bringing back the UHF discount rule weeks before the deal was announced. That way, the new, larger company could still meet the FCC ownership limit of 39 percent of U.S. households, rather than vastly exceeding them.

— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair’s reach now, without Tribune

Then yesterday – at an awkward moment for Pai, Sinclair and Tribune – a Washington-based U.S. Appeals Court rejected a challenge to the FCC reinstating the UHF discount that could’ve and could still pave the way for the merger. The three-judge panel was comprised of two President Barack Obama nominees and one President Trump nominee. They dismissed the case on technical grounds without considering its merits, ruling the activist groups that filed suit hadn’t shown they’d be injured by the consolidation at the heart of their case. What this really means is Tribune could be worth more if it pulls out of the deal, because other potential suitors will have more flexibility to make offers. Tribune can leave Sinclair at the alter/chuppah on Aug. 8.

The UHF discount, started in 1985, let companies with UHF (channels 14+) stations only count half the coverage area towards the ownership limit. But that was when there was a big difference between watching channels 2 to 13, and channels 14+. With today’s technology – and cable, satellite and computers added to the mix, and broadcast signals digital rather than analog – the quality looks the same. The rule was ended in 2016, just before the end of President Obama’s administration.

So why bring back the rule last year? For big corporations, up against the ownership limit, urging Pai to reinstate it so they could buy more stations – exactly what Sinclair needed to merge with Tribune.

According to Variety, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democrat on the FCC at the time, warned it would diminish diversity, competition, and localism, and she predicted a wave of mergers and acquisitions.

Variety wrote at the time,

“She showed a chart from Bloomberg showing how major station groups benefit from the discount. The largest, ION Media, reaches 33.7% of the country with the discount, but 65.2% without. Univision reaches 23.6% with the discount, but 44.8% without. When the discount was repealed last summer, station groups were allowed to retain their existing holdings, but they would be forced to divest assets in the event of a merger or corporate takeover.”

tv owner population share

But Pai argued the FCC would start examining the media ownership cap and reinstating the UHF discount would give the FCC a “blank slate.” The examination started in December.

generic tvA year later, in April 2018, Variety reported a panel of appellate judges asked why the FCC reinstated the rule and raised some concerns. Two of the three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also expressed concerns the FCC had restored a rule that was considered obsolete.

According to Variety, Judge Gregory Katsas noted to the FCC’s attorney, James Carr, that while the FCC

“might want to raise the cap,” there was “no reason for thinking at that the end of the day, part of the solution will be keeping the discount.”

“I think that is probably fair, your honor,” Carr replied. He argued that the UHF discount shouldn’t be eliminated without considering its implications to the 39% cap.

Meanwhile, CEO Chris Ruddy of conservative TV news network Newsmax said, “The judges on the D.C. Circuit reviewing the FCC’s UHF discount were left scratching their heads wondering why the rule was re-instated when everyone — Republicans and Democrats alike — agree that the discount is an analog relic and makes no sense in a digital world.

“The FCC should avoid the appearance of impropriety and proceed with a transparent national ownership cap proceeding to set a level playing field before approving any merger that benefits just one company, namely Sinclair.”

He also said he told President Trump strict limits on national TV ownership are needed not only to keep a lid on Sinclair, but also on the ‘liberal’ broadcast networks.

I told him [Trump] about my opposition because Sinclair would reach 70 percent of U.S. homes and — while I don’t disagree necessarily with Sinclair’s editorial point of view — I did not want to see NBC and ABC and the big liberal networks…[reaching] 70 percent.

“I think that would have been very dangerous if NBC was dictating the local news coverage in Des Moines, Iowa,” Ruddy said.

Keep in mind, Ruddy’s Newsmax and also Sinclair want to challenge Fox News Channel for conservative news viewers.

Politico summed it up by saying,

“Sinclair has been a frequent target for Democrats and liberal groups disturbed by reports that it favors President Donald Trump in its coverage via ‘must-run’ segments pumped to its network of stations.”

During the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported Sinclair

“gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign” while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton, and Politico reported “on a boast by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner that the president’s campaign had struck a deal with the broadcast group for better media coverage. Sinclair disputed the characterization, saying it was an arrangement for extended sit-down interviews that was offered to both candidates.”

Also, it was Trump who nominated Pai for the agency’s top post, so most experts felt the merger would eventually get the go-ahead due to President Trump’s public comments praising the media company, which boasts a conservative-leaning, anti-mainstream media news operation.

My last post mentioned many different cases of using shell companies under Sinclair’s control to still broadcast on more stations than allowed. Those so-called sidecar arrangements let Sinclair keep a stake in the revenue and programming of the spun-off stations.

I even asked, “Why was the FCC the last to find out? Or did it know and ignore the facts for political reasons?”

Today, I found a new example of a virtual triopoly (three stations in a market), when the FCC only allows duopolies (two stations in a market) and only under certain conditions.

So what changed? Politico reports problems in three cities.

WGN-TV

First, in Chicago, the plan was to sell

“WGN to Steven Fader, a Maryland business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith who oversees car dealerships.”

According to Reuters,

“The draft order circulated by Pai’s office … said Sinclair’s actions around the divestiture of TV station WGN in Chicago ‘includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor.’”

Ouch! Not good for a company licensed to use the public airwaves. I used another example below and then offered a suggestion about what should happen to Sinclair.

Adweek added,

“The FCC feels Smith selling the asset to his friend and business associate presents a problem,”

and I’ll say the price of $60 million is ludicrous, considering the station is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to The Chicago Tribune,

“The WGN services agreement would have kept Sinclair in charge of everything from programming to ad sales while giving it an option to buy back the station for the same price, subject to adjustments, within eight years.”

WPIX

Sinclair was also supposed to sell WPIX-New York, the nation’s largest TV market by far, for a measly $15 million to that same Cunningham Broadcasting, a company with close ties to the Smith family. That caused Pai to say he was concerned Sinclair’s proposed sales in Chicago and New York may have attempted to deceive the government.

Adweek said also troubling

“were the deals to sell stations in Dallas and Houston to Cunningham Broadcasting.”

The Tribune reported,

“The proposal also included an option to buy the stations back.”

According to Reuters,

“Separate filings with the FCC last month by the American Civil Liberties Union and conservative news outlet Newsmax Media” … raised “questions about whether Sinclair would continue to control some of the stations it proposes to divest.”

So Politico said,

“Pai announced an administrative law judge would review the station spinoff issues. The FCC takes that step when companies fail to persuade it that a transaction, even with conditions, would be in the public interest.”

Ars Technica reported the decision by FCC commissioners to adopt a Hearing Designation Order and have a judge review aspects of the deal was unanimous. Other options were

“denying the merger outright, approving the merger, or approving it with conditions.”

Click here for the full order. One of the key parts reads:

“Among these applications were three that, rather than transfer broadcast television licenses in Chicago, Dallas, and Houston directly to Sinclair, proposed to transfer these licenses to other entities. The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact “sham” transactions. By way of example, one application proposed to transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair’s executive chairman has a controlling interest. Moreover, Sinclair would have owned most of WGN-TV’s assets, and pursuant to a number of agreements, would have been responsible for many aspects of the station’s operation. Finally, Fader would have purchased WGN-TV at a price that appeared to be significantly below market value, and Sinclair would have had an option to buy back the station in the future. Such facts raise questions about whether Sinclair was the real party in interest under Commission rules and precedents and attempted to skirt the Commission’s broadcast ownership rules. Although these three applications were withdrawn today, material questions remain because the real party-in-interest issue in this case includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor that may suggest granting other, related applications by the same party would not be in the public interest.”

This keeps getting better!at&t time warner

Politico said an administrative law judge was called in 2015 with the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. The companies later abandoned it, rather than go through the hearing process. AT&T ended up with Time Warner, at least for now, after a federal judge allowed it without conditions, but the Justice Department is appealing.

By last Wednesday, Reuters reported Sinclair announced it would not divest the three TV stations currently owned by Tribune

“to ‘expedite’ the transaction after the FCC suggested the company would still control the stations,” and “two FCC officials who did not wish to be identified said Wednesday they believe the merger will not be able to proceed.”

Instead, Sinclair itself will acquire WGN-Chicago, and put KDAF-Dallas and KIAH-Houston into a divestiture trust and sold by an independent trustee (if the acquisition is finalized).

The Justice Department is also still reviewing the deal and the FCC may have even more concerns.

Sinclair denied any effort to mislead the FCC and issued this long statement:

“While neither Sinclair or Tribune have seen the draft HDO, Chairman Pai’s comments and press reports indicate the FCC is questioning the proposed divestitures in Dallas, Houston and Chicago.  Accordingly, in order to address such concerns and to expedite the Tribune transaction, Sinclair has withdrawn the pending divestitures of stations in Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH) to Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and Tribune has withdrawn the pending divestiture of WGN in Chicago to WGN-TV LLC.  Sinclair intends to request permission from the FCC to put the Dallas and Houston stations into a divestiture trust to be operated and sold by an independent trustee following the closing of the Tribune acquisition.  Sinclair expects to have identified and entered into a purchase agreement with a third party buyer or buyers for the Dallas and Houston stations prior to closing.  As a result of the withdrawal of the application relating to WGN, Sinclair will simply acquire that station as part of the Tribune acquisition, which is, and has always been, fully permissible under the national ownership cap.

“Throughout the FCC review process of the Tribune merger and divestitures, Sinclair has had numerous meetings and discussions with the FCC’s Media Bureau to make sure that they were fully aware of the transaction’s structure and basis for complying with FCC rules and meeting public interest obligations. During these discussions and in our filings with the FCC, we have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction. We have fully identified who the buyers are and the terms under which stations would be sold to such buyer, including any ongoing relationship we would have with any such stations after the sales. All relevant agreements documenting such terms as required by FCC rules have been filed. While we understand that certain parties, which oppose the transaction object to certain of the buyers based on such buyers’ relationships with Sinclair, at no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis.

“While the structures put forth to the FCC throughout the process have all been in compliance with law and consistent with structures that Sinclair and many other broadcasters have utilized for many years with the full approval of the FCC, we have consistently modified the structure in order to address any concerns raised by the FCC. As a result and in light of the ongoing and constructive dialogue we had with the FCC during the past year, we were shocked that concerns are now being raised. Nonetheless, we have decided to move forward with these additional changes to satisfy the FCC’s concerns.

“There can be no question regarding misrepresentation or character given that Sinclair has fully disclosed all terms of all aspects of the transactions it has proposed. The FCC’s reported concerns with sales to certain parties have been eliminated in light of the withdrawals of the applications relating to Dallas, Houston and Chicago. Accordingly, we call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure.”

So what’s next for Tribune? Will it stick by the deal as it said it intends? We don’t know for sure yet, but it has until Aug. 8 and I already mentioned reasons to separate from Sinclair.

This video was made before Cox threw its assets into the ring.

One big winner, so far, could be 21st Century Fox Inc. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has become close with President Trump.

Bloomberg notes, over the decades, Fox and Sinclair have been in business together, but the conservative organizations have also been rivals.

Sinclair owns dozens of local Fox affiliates. So does Tribune. Last year, Fox tried unsuccessfully to outbid Sinclair for Tribune.

In the meantime, the companies divide the retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite operators (meaning what you and I pay). Networks say local stations have more value because of them.

Former Fox exec Preston Paddon remembers in his blog,

“By 1992, Congress found that cable systems were paying carriage fees to the non-broadcast channels but not to the broadcasters, and that this was unfair to the broadcasters.”

It’s why we pay for free local TV if we’re not watching with an antenna.

Anyway, Sinclair buying Tribune and its own Fox affiliates would’ve given it a stronger negotiating hand in talks with Fox about how to divvy up those fees.

So after losing out on Tribune,

“Fox threatened to pull its affiliates from Sinclair and switch the stations to an independent broadcaster. Eventually, in order to satisfy regulators, Sinclair agreed to sell some Tribune stations to Fox, which, in turn, said it would renew Sinclair’s affiliation with more than two dozen stations.”

Now, Fox may be able to buy even more stations.

And “Sinclair may soon compete with Fox News for right-leaning TV viewers” may not come to pass. It has reportedly been talking about hiring former Fox News stars to create a block of conservative programming using WGN America, which it would acquire, or The Tennis Channel, which it already owns. Former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson already work for Sinclair. Politico reported Sinclair has even approached current and former Fox talent such as Jeanine Pirro, and Greta Van Susteren and Eric Bolling. I already wrote Talks with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly fell apart. Sinclair won’t admit to any of that.

Also, the Justice Department appealed the ruling that let AT&T buy Time Warner. That’s good for Fox at the moment because it involves Fox News Channel rival CNN, and may have kept Comcast/NBC from buying most of Fox, as it downsizes to become “New Fox.” Murdoch prefers Disney/ABC buying the assets, which the government already approved, and “the Murdoch family would see more tax benefits in that deal.”

So what’s President Trump’s beef? You already read about his relationship with Sinclair.

Tuesday night, he tweeted it was “sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,” but Republicans control the FCC, he appointed Ajit Pai as chairman, and Pai has been accused of being too cozy with Sinclair. But except for appointments, the FCC is independent from the White House.

Deadline reported Sinclair commentator Boris Epshteyn, who used to work for Trump, is for the deal. So is Steve Bannon, who got friendly with Sinclair stations in swing states before the election. And Trump has to like Sinclair’s publicity.

The only Democratic FCC commissioner at the moment tweeted her response to the president with just one word: disagree.

But Trump’s friend Rupert Murdoch – who also owns TV stations and the pro-Trump Fox News Channel – is said to be against the merger. That would be especially so if Sinclair starts putting conservative news on cable through WGN America and The Tennis Channel. Trump is so chummy with Murdoch, he called in December to congratulate him on the Disney-21st Century Fox deal.

I wrote another friend, NewsMax chief Chris Ruddy, is definitely against Sinclair-Tribune, as well.

Furthermore, the president compared Sinclair-Tribune to letting “Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast (get) approved” which happened under the Obama administration and FCC. Trump criticized it as being too big.

He didn’t mention it’s on the level of AT&T-Time Warner, which a federal judge recently allowed but the Justice Department is appealing.

The difference between Sinclair-Tribune and Disney-Fox – and NBC-Comcast and AT&T-Time Warner – is that the first pair involve companies that make content but don’t distribute it. In the second pair, NBC and Time-Warner make content, but Comcast and AT&T actually distribute it — Comcast through cable and AT&T by DirecTV satellite, both of which are paid subscription services.

In April, Axios reported President Trump defended Sinclair after the company started

“forcing conservative, pro-Trump editorials on its” news anchors and “Deadspin created a video of Sinclair broadcasters spurning ‘fake news.’

Viewers of Sinclair’s 200-plus local stations had already seen “centrally drafted opinion items reflecting its conservative, often pro-Trump positions,” but not by their own local anchors and certainly not side-by-side along with so many others.

That was at 6:34am. Keep in mind, a great number of Sinclair’s stations are affiliated with the networks.

Then, at 6:58, Trump took on CNN…

and got pushback from its PR department.

CNN reports some Sinclair journalists said they were unhappy with President Trump’s portrayal of the company as “conservative” because they want to be recognized for their straight-forward, nonpartisan work. Despite their stations being forced to air pro-Trump commentaries and stories, most journalists at local stations don’t want to be labeled by the president or anyone else.

As for Sinclair’s claim of more localism if the deal goes through, FTVLive’s Scott Jones found Sinclair station WSYX-Columbus, Ohio, doing a series of reports called “Gator Week” (as opposed to Shark Week, that has been on the Discovery Channel since 1988). Still, Jones thought it was “odd” considering “you don’t see many alligators in Ohio.” Then, he found out about other Sinclair stations doing the same thing, “including WGXA (Macon, Ga.), WPMI (Mobile, Ala.), WPEC (West Palm Beach) and others.” He joked he wasn’t sure it was a must-run.

I, myself, found Shark Week on a retweet from the Cunningham Broadcasting station in mid-Michigan. Maybe WBSF was allowed to go a different route.

WBSF’s “About” section says it’s “owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” So there are three terms/phrases: owned, operated, and “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” Maybe that’s because just above, it says to send all press releases to news@nbc25news.com. So maybe “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” includes press releases.

But wait!

Below, there are nbc25news email addresses for comments, webmaster (the Sinclair owned, operated, and apparently “affiliated” websites all look similar), contests and weather.

And below that are Sinclair (sbgi.net) email addresses for corporate, two for national advertising, and the secondary person for closed-captioning concerns.

So maybe those are all the “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

That’s all very interesting since I knew Sinclair controlled two other stations in the same location!

NBC affiliate WEYI has on its “about” section (with the same look) that it’s “owned and operated by Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” That entire phrase is merely a substitution for Armstrong Williams’ company and we established in my last post that WEYI is one of a few Howard Stirk stations run by Sinclair. They also use the nbc25news email, but it’s more appropriate here.

Then there’s Fox affiliate WSMH that has on its “about” section (with the same look, of course) that it’s – wait for this! – actually “owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.” The email addresses are all wsmh.com. The “receives certain services” phrase is not there.

I did notice after the paragraph with the name of the owner, etc., and ties to Sinclair, is another called “Community Involvement.”

What’s funny is that all three stations start with “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group, LLC. continue to broaden its recruiting outreach…”

That means “the owner” can be whichever company actually holds the station license and it’s not named here, just referred to as “the owner,” out of laziness.

But what’s especially funny here is saying “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group” when Sinclair is really the owner!

But seriously, how does Sinclair operate the three stations with the same address, etc.? We learned in my last post that’s not allowed in Baltimore, with Sinclair, Cunningham and Deerfield Media. In fact, in Nov., 2012, TVNewsCheck reported the situation as “a virtual triopoly.”

The FCC’s webpage called Broadcast Ownership Rules clearly states in its section, Local TV Multiple Ownership:

“An entity is permitted to own up to two TV stations in the same Designated Market Area if either:

  • “The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap

  • “At least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination”

That’s the summary in its entirety! The stations cover the same area. An old website reports “eight full-power television stations in the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City market,” the others being CBS and ABC affiliates, two PBS affiliates and a religious broadcaster.

And the NBC, Fox and CW stations are controlled by the same company, for all intents and purposes. I’d bet the CW station is not in the top four rated, but the rules are for an entity “to own up to two TV stations” – just two!

(The MyNetworkTV affiliate is on a sub-channel of the CBS affiliate.)

I just found the mid-Michigan situation by accident and wonder how many other cities this has been going on in.

TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell put it this way, and then made lists of winners and losers at this point:

“Its mishandling of its merger application has badly stained its permanent FCC record in a way that could greatly complicate its future regulatory dealings. … And a liar is what the FCC has accused Sinclair of being by obfuscating the fact it would continue to control three major market stations that it told the FCC it would spin off to other broadcasters to comply with ownership limits.

“You see, the FCC acts on the honor system. It presumes that you are obeying all the rules and expects you to confess any infractions. It’s the principal way the FCC polices those it regulates. That’s why lying – the ever-polite FCC calls it “misrepresentation” or “lack of candor” – is taken seriously and is the FCC equivalent of a capital crime. … As the lawyers pointed out to me this week, once indicted for misrepresentation as Sinclair has now been, it sticks because it goes to the broadcaster’s basic character qualifications to be a licensee. It cannot buy or sell a station or even renew a license until it resolves the character question. Sinclair’s best move now is to walk away from the merger and promise, no, swear on a stack of Bibles, that it will never, ever mislead the FCC again.

“Sinclair has no one but itself to blame for this fiasco. It pushed too hard to keep as many of the Tribune stations as it could and somewhere along the line lost sight of the larger goal – get the transfer through the FCC and get to closing. … (David Smith) kept going back to the FCC (and the Justice Department) demanding more and more. Ironically, he will likely end up with nothing, except maybe a new set of regulatory hassles.”

Bloomberg quotes B. Riley FBR Inc. analyst Barton Crockett, who said in a note he has

“never seen such ‘harsh’ language from the FCC about an applicant for a merger. The ‘vitriolic’ tone of the FCC statement makes it dubious that Sinclair and Tribune will be able to come back with divestitures that will satisfy the FCC.”

Bottom line: Anyone who knows me knows I can be tough, especially on myself. The people who run and invest in the nation’s largest media company have been breaking rules all over the place for many years. It’s time the FCC gets extremely serious so it’s taken seriously when protecting the public interest from those using the public airwaves.

Does anyone remember the RKO situation? Have a seat and look for similarities. (I wrote this with information from several Wikipedia listings.)

RKO General 1962
1962 logo

RKO General was the main holding company through 1991 for the non-core businesses of the General Tire and Rubber Company.

It had been in broadcasting since 1943, and General Tire bought the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio in 1955, but dissolved it in 1959. From then until 1991, it operated six TV stations and more than a dozen radio stations. It also holds the record for the longest licensing dispute in television history.

KHJThe trouble began in 1965. RKO General applied for license renewal of KHJ-TV in Los Angeles (now KCAL-Channel 9). A local group, Fidelity Television, challenged it, charging RKO with second-rate programming, and later and more seriously, that General Tire conditioned its dealings with certain vendors on the basis they’d buy advertising time on RKO General stations. These “reciprocal trade practices” are considered anti-competitive. RKO and General Tire executives testified before the FCC and rejected the accusations. Four years later, in 1969, the commission issued an initial finding that Fidelity’s claims were correct.WNAC RKO

That same year, RKO faced a license challenge for WNAC-TV in Boston (now WHDH-Channel 7, not to be confused with the old WHDH-Channel 5), again charged with reciprocal trade practices.

WOR RKOFour years later, in 1973, the FCC ruled in favor of RKO in the Los Angeles case, pending findings in the still-ongoing Boston investigation. The next year, in 1974, when RKO applied for license renewal of WOR-TV in New York (now WWOR-Channel 9, technically Secaucus, NJ), the FCC conditioned the renewal on the Boston case as well.

SIDEBAR: Another Boston FCC case lasted 15 years – not the record, but from sign-on to sign-off – and involved the former WHDH-Channel 5. The DuMont Television Network applied for a construction permit for the channel, but shut down its network before getting it. The Boston Herald Traveler Corporation got the license, signed on in 1957, and shortly after, the FCC started investigating allegations of impropriety in the granting of the television license. (Allegedly, the controversy was over luncheon meetings the newspaper’s chief executive had with an FCC commissioner during the original licensing process.) So the old channel 5 (WHDH) never had a license longer than six months at a time while the standard was three years.

Eventually, the FCC ordered comparative hearings and in 1969, a local group called Boston Broadcasters was granted a construction permit for a new station on channel 5 called WCVB after it promised to air more local programming than any other station in America at the time. That’s even though the old channel 5 (WHDH) often broadcast more local programming than any other commercial TV station in Boston. Herald-Traveler Corporation lost its court case in 1972 and WCVB went on the air in its place. Luckily, everyone on the old channel 5 moved to the new channel 5 which still broadcasts from the suburb of Needham, since the old WHDH-TV refused to sell its studios, transmitter and tower to the new WCVB, which is now owned by Hearst.

NOW BACK TO THE STORY: In June, 1974, an administrative law judge renewed the WNAC-Channel 7 Boston license even after finding General Tire and RKO General had engaged in reciprocal trade practices. In December, 1975, a company competing for the license called Community Broadcasting asked the FCC to revisit the case. It alleged General Tire bribed foreign officials, maintained a slush fund for U.S. political campaign contributions, and misappropriated revenue from overseas operations. RKO denied all the allegations during a year-and-a-half series of proceedings. Then, in July, 1977, General Tire admitted to an eye-popping litany of corporate misconduct, including the bribery and slush fund charges, in order to settle an action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But the TV situation wasn’t over yet. Still, the RKO proceedings dragged on!

Finally, in 1980, after a half-decade of hearings and investigations, the FCC stripped RKO of WNAC’s license. It found RKO “lacked the requisite character” to be the station’s licensee and gave as examples, the reciprocal trade practices of the 1960s, false financial filings by RKO, and General Tire’s gross misconduct in non-broadcast fields.

But the worst was RKO’s dishonesty before the FCC. During hearings, RKO withheld evidence of General Tire’s misconduct, including the fact the SEC had been investigating the company in 1976. RKO also denied it had improperly reported exchanges of broadcast time for various services, despite indications to the contrary in General Tire’s 1976 annual report. So the FCC found RKO had displayed a “persistent lack of candor” over its own and General Tire’s misdeeds, which threatened “the integrity of the Commission’s processes.” That FCC ruling meant RKO lost the KHJ-TV Los Angeles and WOR-TV New York licenses as well.

RKO appealed to the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the revocation solely on the basis of RKO’s lack of candor. It wrote in its opinion, “[t]he record presented to this court shows irrefutably that the licensee was playing the dodger to serious charges involving it and its parent company.” But the court interpreted the candor issue so narrowly that it applied only to WNAC-TV, and ordered rehearings for WOR and KHJ. RKO General appealed again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1982, SCOTUS refused to review the license revocation, and it was over. RKO General sold WNAC’s assets to New England Television (NETV), a new company from the merger of Community Broadcasting and another competitor for the license, the Dudley Station Corporation. The FCC granted a full license to NETV on channel 7, which it renamed WNEV-TV. Since then, the station changed its call letters to WHDH-TV, had low ratings, and was sold to Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. (This WHDH has no relation to the old WHDH-Channel 5.)

It could’ve been worse. In 1983, the FCC began taking competing applications for all of RKO’s broadcasting licenses, but Congress passed a law sponsored by Sen. Bill Bradley requiring the commission to automatically renew the license of any commercial VHF-TV station relocating to a state without one, meaning New Jersey and Delaware. Two months later, RKO General officially changed WOR’s city of license from New York to Secaucus, NJ, where it remains on paper. The FCC made the station move its main studio there and step up coverage of events in the Garden State. Still, WOR maintained its identity as a New York station. (It’s now owned by Fox, which also owns WNYW-Channel 5, and got rid of channel 9’s newscasts.)

In 1984, RKO sold its Radio Networks operation to United Stations. In 1986, under pressure, RKO put WOR up for sale. MCA/Universal won the bidding war and the FCC approved the purchase. In 1987, MCA changed the call letters to WWOR. (Remember the slogan Universal 9, about 15 years before NBCUniversal was formed?)

RKO was lucky it sold WOR. In 1987, an FCC administrative law judge found it unfit to be a broadcast licensee due to a long history of deceptive practices he called the worst case of dishonesty in FCC history, and ordered RKO to surrender the licenses for its two remaining two TV stations and 12 remaining radio stations. RKO declared all of the employees responsible for the misconduct had been fired and appealed, claiming the ruling was deeply flawed. But the FCC made it clear it would probably reject any appeals and strip the licenses, and urged RKO to sell everything before that became necessary.

In 1988, under an FCC-supervised deal, the license of KHJ-Los Angeles was granted to Fidelity, the company that had originally challenged RKO General. Fidelity then transferred it to Disney, before it bought ABC, for $324 million. RKO got about two-thirds and Fidelity got the rest. By 1991, everything was sold. (Fort Lauderdale-Miami’s WAXY-FM 105.9 – which labeled itself “an RKO radio station” before giving its call letters, near the end – was sold in 1990. That was 28 years ago! Unbelievable!)

TVNewsCheck’s Harry Jessell put it this way:

“When people are making comparisons between your station group and RKO General, you know you have screwed up.”

I think there are too many changes going on in the industry right now as technology improves so quickly. Jessell mentioned certain former FCC commissioners would’ve gone the RKO route with Sinclair. I agree because now more than ever, broadcasters use the public airwaves and must pay us back with public service under tougher rules than its competitors. And the FCC needs complete and total honesty, with so much on its hands.

Sinclair needs to be brought down similarly for all it has done, with the same family as owners and no concern for anything but profit over the decades. The stations should be separated. Local broadcasters or broadcasting groups with no other industry interests should be given first shot at the stations. Then, they can hire experienced people with original ideas, and decisions would be made right there in the studio building.

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

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Facebook: Friend or foe? Keep or delete?

If you were reading the Sunday paper, you may have come across this full-page ad from Facebook with a letter signed by Mark Zuckerberg. Seems like he spent a fortune but needed to for a chance to save his company.

2018-03-25 facebook apology

Axios reports the ad ran “inside the front section of today’s N.Y. Times, on the back cover of today’s WashPost, and in The Wall Street Journal. In London, it’s running in The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Mail on SundaySunday Mirror and Sunday Express.”

mark zuckerberg facebookZuckerberg used part of the letter to say he failed to better control Facebook’s customers’ data, and should’ve allowed more experiments with leaked data like a university professor got away with in 2014, just “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

But he was far too late.

What happened was a political marketing firm that worked with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — Cambridge Analytica — improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users. This came at a time political campaigns were increasingly looking to sway voters on popular digital platforms. Politico reported “nobody is certain how much” help it was to the campaign but said Trump’s name added to the furor.

It added, “Facebook has always been slipshod about privacy” since Zuckerberg “sins, seeks forgiveness in confession, and then with that naughty boy expression pasted on his face he goes forth and sins again. Zuckerberg’s filibustering apology and promise today to be a better boy is just more of the same.”

Zuckerberg’s ad mentioned what his company has done, what it’s doing and what it will do, before promising “to do better for you.”

But should’ve come about a week earlier and before the social network’s shares tumbled 14 percent.

Mashable reports it also happened after Facebook’s “lawyers threatened to sue the news outlet reporting the story.”

Campbell Brown
Campbell Brown, Wikipedia

That would be The Guardian.

But Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, tried to make the company’s regret very clear. She noted it was “not our wisest move. … “If it were me I would have probably not threatened to sue The Guardian,” CNET reported her as saying.

Mashable summarized, “In other words, Facebook threatened legal action to prevent accountability and reform. And they definitely think that was a bad idea.”

And Techdirt reports Facebook was one of the companies that helped kill

“some pretty basic but important consumer privacy rules. The protections, which would have taken effect in March of 2017, simply required that ISPs be transparent about what personal data is collected and sold, while mandating that ISPs provide consumers with the ability to opt of said collection. But because informed and empowered consumers damper ad revenues, ISPs moved quickly to have the rules scuttled with the help of cash-compromised lawmakers.”

sheryl sandbergNow, Deadline magazine reports, “Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged that the social network will likely be subject to regulation.”

“It’s not a question of ‘if regulation’ it’s a question of what type,” Sandberg said in an interview Thursday with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “We are not even waiting around for regulation.”

(Disclosure: Sandberg grew up in North Miami Beach and went to the same schools as me. Her brother David was my senior class valedictorian. I respect both a lot.)

facebook f logo

Facebook and other technology companies rely on the tremendous amount of data they gather from billions of their users. That information makes money for their products, services and – most importantly – advertising sales based on user information.

We volunteer some of that information, like email addresses and birthdays. On the other hand, we give Facebook even more by simply using it. That’s how Facebook knows our likes and friend connections.

Zuckerberg blamed apps that may be leaking user data to third parties and pledged to crack down on them, plus identify them to us.

person on computer typing facebook

But the incident raised new questions about Facebook’s ability to protect user data and led to an online movement calling for users to drop their accounts with the social media giant.

Other developers have been working on us keeping all our data on our computers or a cloud storage provider we choose. Think of it like an encrypted phone book. Then, if we want to use an app, we’d simply give “it a key that could decrypt all that personal information” we control. And if we “later decided the app was no good,” we could simply take back the key, so we control the information.

“There’s no company in the middle that’s hosting all the data,” developer Muneeb Ali explained.

Another benefit is our information is spread out across billions of separate machines, making any single breach far less damaging. Think Equifax.

That’s different in a lot of ways than Facebook, which we’ve been trusting to hold our information.

Politico shared on Wednesday about Facebook, “Once celebrated for its all-seeing, all-knowing, all-tracking ways, it’s now damned for those same attributes.”

 

So should we delete our Facebook accounts?Elon Musk June 2015 flickr

The Washington Post reports Elon Musk followed through on a promise to many of his Twitter followers. The automaker and aerospace innovator – and chief executive – deleted the Facebook pages of both companies he runs, Tesla and SpaceX. Now, go to them and you’ll see pages with a generic Facebook message, “Sorry, this content isn’t available right now.” Along with not being able use Facebook to provide information on his companies, he also lost 5 million combined users’ “likes.”

content isnt available right now

What led to Musk’s big decision was personal. The Post reports he saw a tweet Brian Acton, co-founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, wrote Tuesday.

The message could hardly be more simple: The sentence “It is time.” And the hashtag #deletefacebook.

Then, some sarcasm. Musk claimed not to know SpaceX even had a Facebook page.

Shortly after, it became a dare.

dare Musk delete FB

Musk deleted Tesla’s Facebook page, writing it “looks lame anyway.”

Tim Cook January 2009Saturday, Bloomberg reported Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called for stronger privacy regulations that prevent the misuse of data.

Bloomberg said, “Cook called for ‘well-crafted’ regulations that prevent the information of users being put together and applied in new ways without their knowledge.”

Also according to the report, “Cook said his company had long worried that people around the world were giving up information without knowing how it could be used.”

“The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life,” Cook said, “from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.”

But according to Mashable,

Deleting Facebook won’t fix the data privacy nightmare we’re only just waking up to” and “there is no way to undo the damage that’s been done. Scores of developers could still be hoarding our old Facebook data and there’s nothing we can do about it. Moreover, it’s not just Facebook you should be worried about. Almost everything you touch in your digital life is tracking you in more ways than you know. … We, as digital citizens, need to take more responsibility for our data and who we let have it. And companies (likely with the help of some good, old-fashioned government regulation) need to fundamentally change as well. It’s the only way our privacy nightmare ends.”

Mirror Online interviewed leading privacy advocate and CEO of MeWe, Mark Weinstein: Is there any way to use Facebook without giving up all your data?

He said no:

“There is no way to use FB without giving up all your data. People forget or don’t understand that Facebook is a “data” company and that is their true business. So even the facade of “privacy” settings on FB have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to spy on you and track everything you and your friends do. Facebook creates a data packet on you that may include 2,000+ points of information. And Facebook tracks their members across the Web – not just at Facebook but at thousands of sites. If a person wants privacy and data ownership – then Facebook is the wrong company to use.”

USA Today columnist Jefferson Graham has an idea if you choose to keep it:

“Review what apps have access to your Facebook data, then start deleting. … Facebook says it has stricter controls than it used to, and will now take a good, hard look at all its app developers to weed out abuses. You can take that at face value and either believe them, or be highly skeptical. (I’m in the latter camp.) … While you wait for Facebook to (hopefully) change, you can take action. Get rid of as many apps as you can now.”

He also says users “grant sign-on access via Facebook with one click, and in turn, those app developers can get personal data” so “It’s smarter to register for access with the app itself, instead of using the Facebook sign-in.”

Plus,

“Check your Facebook setting to see how many apps have been granted access. … To delete the apps, click the checkmark next to the question mark at the top right of the News Feed, select Settings, then Apps on the left-side menu, and then Apps, Websites and Plug-ins. From there, take a look at who you’ve granted access to, and start deleting those apps you don’t use.” But Facebook makes it difficult since there’s “no Select All button, or even a way to select multiple apps at once. You’ll have to delete each one, one by one.”

Jordan Crook of Tech Crunch says it’s easier. Have a copy of all your Facebook information. Click here for directions on downloading “an archive of your account, which includes your Timeline info, posts you have shared, messages and photos, as well as more hidden information like ads you have clicked on, the IP addresses that are logged when you log into or out of Facebook, and more.”

But he adds, “Oddly, finding the button to delete your Facebook account isn’t available in the settings or menu. It lives on an outside page, which you can find by clicking right here.”

Then, you’ll come up with this:

delete fb

Business Insider has an article “10 reasons to delete your Facebook account.” They include “Facebook’s Terms of Service are completely one-sided,” “Facebook is pulling a classic bait-and-switch,” and “The Facebook application itself sucks.” I’ve discussed several of them. Click here to get the rest and more details.

But Business Insider has another article called “I can’t bring myself to break up with Facebook – and it’s because I used the login to sign into all of my other accounts.” It’s pretty much for app lovers.

One quote:

“I know why I’d used Facebook to log into all these things: It was quick, convenient and secure, or so I thought. But I didn’t foresee the consequences of linking so many applications to one account.”

So how did it happen?
Cambridge Analytica wikipedia

 

Tuesday, CNN reported Aleksandr Kogan said “he gathered information on 30 million Americans through his Facebook personality test app in 2014 — data he then passed to Cambridge Analytica, which later worked on the Trump campaign.”Aleksandr Kogan twitter

 

Then, “When Facebook learned in 2015 that Kogan had shared the information with Cambridge Analytica, it demanded the data be deleted, saying that transferring or selling it was against its company guidelines.”

But the 32-year-old claimed he’s not alone and “suspects thousands of other developers and data scientists had used similar methods to gather information on Facebook users.”

Kogan also claims Facebook is making him a scapegoat, since

“Christopher Wylie, then a Cambridge Analytica staffer, assured him he was doing everything in accordance with Facebook policy. Wylie’s revelations about his former company, reported by The New York Times and The Observer, sparked the current crisis facing Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.”christopher wylie

Wylie, a 28-year-old Canadian with red hair, “came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica,” according to The Guardian. The data analytics firm helped the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK to get out of the European Union.

Steve Bannon – the Breitbart executive chairman-turned Trump campaign CEO-turned White House chief strategist – was Wylie’s boss in 2014. Plus, Republican donor Robert Mercer was Cambridge Analytica’s investor.

On top of that, Mediaite reports,

A former staffer at Cambridge Analytica … is now a member of his (Trump’s) administration. Records obtained by watchdog group American Oversight show Kelly Rzendzian served as a political affairs manager for the firm starting in March 2016, the same time during which it was hired by the Trump campaign. Her LinkedIn profile says she worked as a senior advisor for SCL Group, which is affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, from that time to February 2017. As of February 2017, Rzendzian has worked as a special assistant for the Department of Commerce secretary. According to her resume, her time with Cambridge Analytica involved engaging in ‘Collaborate Across Teams to Execute Targeted Engagement and Outreach Strategies, including Oversight of Audience Segmentation and Message Planning for Presidential Campaign.’ … Before she joined Cambridge Analytica, Rzendzian worked on the election campaigns of Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).”

But Wylie reportedly also came up with the idea “to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – ‘information operations’ – then turn it on the US electorate.”

For what it’s worth, Kogan told CNN when he started looking into what can be predicted about a person based on what their Facebook “likes,” he was relying on research done by others like Wylie. Then, he found it wasn’t effective.

“What we found ourselves was that the data isn’t very accurate at the individual level at all,” Kogan said.

And that would mean Cambridge Analytica was selling a “myth” to political campaigns because it really couldn’t offer a more sophisticated method of targeting voters by determining their personality types through social media.

Does that make you feel better?

social media

Kogan told CNN he would be happy to testify before Congress and speak to authorities, but he hopes there’s a discussion about how social media companies like Facebook use personal information to sell ads.

He said, in exchange for free services like Facebook, users become the product that’s sold to advertisers.

“Are we concerned with being the product?” he asked.

man reading newspaper

The Guardian reports Cambridge Analytica is being investigated “in the US, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion,” but it’s also the key subject of two inquiries in the UK. The Electoral Commission wants to know the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum and the Information Commissioner’s Office is looking into data analytics for political purposes.

As for Wylie, “Going public involves an enormous amount of risk” since he’s “breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.”

That’s his problem.

Plus, Mashable reports an FEC filing shows Facebook board member Peter Thiel, “who infamously supported the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, also happened to donate $1,000,000 in October of 2016 to the Super PAC Make America Number 1 — an organization that paid Cambridge Analytica $231,352 toward the end of the same year.”

It summarizes,

“In other words, a portion of Thiel’s wealth — some of which was derived from his early investment in Facebook — likely made its way into the coffers of Cambridge Analytica via Make America Number 1. … Of course, it’s unclear if Thiel knew that Make America Number 1 was shelling out tons of cash to Cambridge Analytica when he made his donation. But here’s the thing: it most certainly was. Thiel’s contribution was on October 26, 2016. FEC documents show that between October 3 and October 19 of the same year Make America Number 1 paid out $323,908 to Cambridge Analytica — $20,000 of which was for ‘DATA ACQUISITION SERVICES.’”

Unfortunately, Democrats did the same – earlier – and with special permission!

President Barack Obama Official White House Photo
Official White House Photo

Politico’s Eric Wilson points out,

And it’s not just Republicans who have taken advantage of Facebook’s invasive features. Far from it: During the 2012 campaign, President Barack Obama’s reelection team built an app that extracted the same types of data in the same fashion as the Cambridge Analytica data in question, with one critical difference: Obama’s team extracted nearly five times the information.

According to Carol Davidsen, a member of Obama’s data team, ‘Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.’ The social graph is Facebook’s map of relationships between users and brands on its platform. And after the election, she recently acknowledged, Facebook was ‘very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.’ There’s been no word on whether the Obama team was asked to delete its data, nor has it been suspended from Facebook.”

black laptop computer keyboard

Now, you and I have things to think about:

Were we some of the 50 million affected? We’re supposed to be notified. When? We’ll see.

Do hundreds of gigabytes of unencrypted Facebook data still exist on Cambridge’s servers, contradicting assurances given to congressional investigators?

Is Facebook really back in control?

Congress

Will Zuckerberg testify about the situation? Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), said in a statement: “They say ‘trust us,’ but Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what Facebook knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”

facebook phone mobileVox points out, “For many people, using Facebook regularly is a required part of their job or education.” Find a reporter today who doesn’t have to use Facebook and other social media to break news and tease the product.

And keep in mind, deleting Facebook means we’ll need other ways to find and keep in touch with people we haven’t seen in years. Without it, we won’t be able to send baby (or cat) pictures to many of our contacts with not much more than a click of a button.

Decisions, decisions!

—–

Now, here is something that I realized I missed, although I did not read it anywhere – so it’s true, but you’re getting it late. I’m sorry.

I’ve written many times against Sinclair Broadcast Group buying Tribune Media, and how horrible it would be, and how unethically it’s being done – from the Sinclair people to the Federal Communications Commission.

One issue holding up the $3.9 billion deal, though there should officially be many more, is how many TV stations around the country will have to be sold off, since a Sinclair-Tribune combination will own more stations than the government allows. (Don’t forget the feds recently reestablished the UHF discount just before this deal was made, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai is under investigation because of that.) Another question is which stations would be spun off. And a third is whether the new conglomerate would be allowed to own more than one station (duopolies) in certain cities.

Now, there’s something called the Sinclair Divestiture Trust.

Radio + Television Business Report, which I’d never heard of over the years, reported more than a month ago – back on Feb. 21 – the controversial combination got a step closer.

That’s because “A series of Form 314 filings have been made (that day) with the FCC indicating the divestiture of up to 23 broadcast television properties by Sinclair.”

The Sinclair Divestiture Trust is the place where those stations would be listed and trustee RAFAMEDIA LLC, led by veteran media broker Richard A. Foreman, told RBR+TVBR the stations – from both Sinclair and Tribune – were put in the trust “for the purpose of removing them from the licensee” – in other words, to be sold off.

The article listed these stations:
* Tribune’s KCPQ-TV and KZJO-TV in Seattle-Tacoma,
* Tribune’s KPLR-11 in St. Louis,
* Tribune’s FOX-affiliated KSTU-13 in Salt Lake City,
* Sinclair’s KOKH-TV and KOCB-TV, and also Tribune’s KAUT-TV and KFOR-TV, in Oklahoma City,
* Sinclair’s WXLV-TV and WMYV-TV, and Tribune’s WGHP-TV, in Greensboro, NC,
* Sinclair’s WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, and Tribune’s WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids,
* Sinclair’s WHP-TV in Harrisburg, and Tribune’s WPMT-TV in York, Pa.,
* Sinclair’s WRLH-TV, and Tribune’s WTVR-TV in Richmond, Va.,
* Sinclair’s KDSM-TV, and Tribune’s WHO-TV in Des Moines, and
* Tribune’s WTTV-TV and WXIN-TV in Indianapolis.

I mentioned many of these stations in my last post, and also a Sinclair-Tribune combination would own four stations in Seattle, three in St. Louis, four in Oklahoma City, three in Greensboro and two in Richmond.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair currently, without Tribune, from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

Don’t forget Sinclair wants all of America to be able to watch local stations it owns. That can’t happen because the limit is 39 percent of the American population. (However, the reinstated UHF discount I mentioned early only counts UHF stations as covering half the people in the market, so the percentage is actually higher. Of course, technology these days means it’s just as easy for you and me to watch a UHF station as a VHF station, so reinstating UHF discount is both controversial and unnecessary, except for large station owners like Sinclair to get even larger.)old tv sets

Sinclair has gotten around the rules, especially while the UHF discount was not enforced from 1985 to April 2017, with shell corporations either owned by the family that owns Sinclair, or others that let Sinclair program them through local marketing agreements. Sinclair doesn’t technically own all those stations, but operates them as if they do.

According to RBR+TVBR, Sinclair noted stations were placed in the divestiture trust “in order to retain flexibility, based on the outcome of Sinclair’s request to own two top-four stations in this market, to determine which station, if any, will be placed in the Trust.”

map Harrisburg Indy GreensboroThat’s because the proposed combination can’t simply decide to hold onto the two highest-rated stations in a city. There are FCC rules, detailed in the last post. They include the population of the market, and also not owning two of the top four rated stations. Sinclair asked the FCC for waivers to that in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro.

 

So the trust is flexible.

With that in mind, Divestiture Trust Applications were reportedly being filed on Tribune’s WPIX in New York and KSWB in San Diego, so they may go into the trust but not necessarily.WPIX

WPIX, a CW affiliate, was reportedly going to be sold for just $15 million – rather than hundreds of millions – to Cunningham Broadcasting, owned by Sinclair’s founder’s survivors. Then, Sinclair will run it and possibly buy it back within eight years, if the ownership rules are relaxed further by then.

KSWB, a Fox affiliate, was reportedly going to be sold.

Sinclair Divestiture Trust
Trust list via http://www.tvnewscheck.com/tv-station-directory/group/1434

Not listed in the trust means Sinclair intends to keep KOMO-TV and KUNS-TV in Seattle; KDNL-TV in St. Louis; and KJZZ-TV and KUTV-TV in Salt Lake City.

RBR+TVBR reported Sinclair “intends to keep one of the stations being placed into trust in Indianapolis, Des Moines, Richmond, Harrisburg, Grand Rapids, Greensboro, and Oklahoma City.”

Without selling any stations, RBR+TVBR noted, “The combined company would reach 72% of U.S. television households, and would own and operate the largest number of broadcast television stations of any station group.”

Also, there was a 180-day timeline for the merger to happen, but it was stopped at Day 167 way back on Oct. 18, 2017, for additional comment and revised divestment applications. That means if this really happens, it will have taken much longer than originally thought. If not, then a whole lot of time and money were wasted.

Good!

sinclair broadcast group

And while I’m at it, and Sinclair has so much clout, here are some questions for those who run it:
* How about putting local news back on the air in Pittsburgh? Isn’t the Steel City big enough for four local news stations, especially when you do news in much smaller places?
* How about having local news anchors in local towns, like Toledo OH (where it owns the NBC affiliate) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre PA (where it owns the Fox affiliate)? Instead, Sinclair’s anchors at its CBS affiliate in South Bend IN do news for all three places, even though they don’t know the other cities. Tell me why this isn’t a money-saver, in the best interest of shareholders rather than the public.
* Why do you really use companies like Cunningham Broadcasting, in which you already own 90 percent, and what would happen if you sold its stations to an outsider with no connection to you?
* How about selling the rest of the TV stations you don’t own the licenses for, using sharing services or local marketing agreements to get by FCC regulations?
* How about letting your local stations program their newscasts locally, rather than making time for your slanted must-carry stories you require them to air daily? You do use localism as a reason the deal with Tribune should go through.

NO sinclair tribune

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Fox News: Really ‘Real News. Real Honest Opinion’?

They haven’t been “Fair and Balanced” in a while but stating Monday, Fox News will be marketing itself as “Real News. Real Honest Opinion.”

real news real honest opinion

Yesterday, Ad Age magazine made the announcement.

It’ll start with Fox’s own properties and then perhaps go elsewhere.

The change follows the huge “revelation of sexual harassment allegations” that got Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and top host Bill O’Reilly kicked out.

In July, 2016, former host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for harassment, triggering lawsuits, internal investigations, resignations and firings. Carlson ended up settling for $20 million.

Then, The New York Times revealed O’Reilly and Fox had paid millions of dollars to quietly settle other sexual harassment allegations against Ailes, including two after he left. (Real honest? Really?)

That led to big changes to the channel’s lineup.

Ailes died in May, 2017, and denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

Then, last spring, co-president Bill Shine was ousted. Shine – who ran programming – succeeded Ailes despite his “alleged role in abetting Ailes in tolerating a workplace hostile to women,” according to The Washington Post. The other co-president – Jack Abernethy – runs the business side.

Women’s groups and some Fox employees had complained the Murdoch family, which owns Fox, wasn’t serious about reforming the company as long as its leadership – selected by and loyal to Ailes – remained mostly intact. The Post said Shine’s removal showed the younger Murdochs – Rupert’s sons Lachlan and James – were finally trying to foster what they called “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust” when Ailes was forced out.

Ad Age reports Chris Wallace and Martha MacCallum will be part of the Real News, while Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson will represent Real Honest Opinion.

Carlson claims in one of the spots, “Fox is the one place where dissent is allowed,” while MacCallum promises, “We are going to ask the tough questions because there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there that needs to be challenged.”

cnnAhead of frontrunner Fox, CNN began its “Facts First” marketing campaign last October. Ad Age says it features a narrator using an apple to push back against President Donald Trump and others who call it a purveyor of “fake news” by screaming ‘Banana, Banana, Banana,’ over and over and over again, and even putting ‘banana’ in all caps.

Of course, the honesty of Fox News has been doubted over the years and reinforced just in the past week.

Thursday night, CNN reported Fox reporter Diana Falzone settled a lawsuit with Fox News and left the company. Her lawyer said she couldn’t disclose the terms, and neither side would elaborate.

Falzone sued in May, 2017, alleging gender discrimination. Her suit

“said she was demoted for writing a column about her struggle with endometriosis, a painful disorder often accompanied by other severe symptoms, including infertility.”

Fox News had denied the allegations.

Falzone’s column said she was “reluctant to share” her battle with the disorder but she ultimately did “after being persuaded by a manager in her doctor’s office, who told her, ‘Many women suffer in silence alone. Please share your story.’”

It’s still up and still tagged with

tag

Perhaps more seriously and with much more at stake for our country, Fox shelved a Falzone story that CNN reported,

“detailed an alleged sexual relationship between porn actress Stephanie Clifford – whose stage name is Stormy Daniels – and Donald Trump.”

Stephanie Clifford Stormy Daniels
Stephanie Clifford/Stormy Daniels, Wikimedia Commons
Melania Donald Trump
Melania and Donald, Wikipedia

The alleged affair is reported to have happened in 2006. Donald and Melania Trump were married in 2005.

Killing Falzone’s reporting on it allegedly happened in October, 2016, a month before the presidential election in which Trump won. It could’ve been a major scoop and possibly changed the election results.

I wonder who killed that story and why. Was it political? Maybe, especially considering the company’s reputation. Did Falzone have every fact? That’s probably what the person who killed the story would claim. I suggest another investigation immediately, run by an outsider like CBS had after Dan Rather’s report on President George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard duty during the Vietnam War.

The person who killed Falzone’s story about Trump and the porn actress should be fired right away if the investigation finds the story could’ve run back then, especially if that person didn’t bother to tell superiors and to have a lawyer fact-check it. An aggressive, impartial news manager would’ve done everything possible to run this.

Because of that Fox decision, it was NBC on Friday that broke the news:

  • President “Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence,”
  • “The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress … before she signed a nondisclosure agreement,” and
  • “Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as ‘Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump.’”

Variety reports Clifford/Daniels is suing the president and alleging the nondisclosure agreement “she signed when receiving the funds is null due to the lack of president’s signature.”

Yesterday, she offered to return the $130,000 in exchange to speak freely about her interactions with Trump, and lawyer Cohen has said Trump “vehemently denies” any affair.

She even shot a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, but we haven’t seen it yet. CBS News president David Rhodes said, “The only reason it hasn’t run is that there’s still a lot of journalistic work to do,” rather than any problem with the president.

Now, CNN reports a source close to the president said Mr. Trump

“has been seeking counsel from confidantes on how he should handle the Stormy Daniels situation,” and “Trump is being told by advisers not to fight Daniels’ decision to break a confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty.”

It’s also the reason Trump has stayed quiet and not tweeted about the issue.

CNN also says 60 Minutes “producers are working to verify claims she made” and “three sources confirmed to CNN that Clifford made new claims about Trump in the interview.”

Sunday, BuzzFeed had reported “lawyers associated with President Donald Trump are considering legal action to stop 60 Minutes from airing” the interview but prior restraints are hardly ever granted. This isn’t national security we’re talking about!

Nah, this isn’t a story Fox would’ve been interested in taking the lead on. They let the other guys have it.

jesse watters
http://www.foxnews.com/shows/watters-world.html

Then Saturday, The New York Daily News reported something that had been out there: “Prominent host Jesse Watters … is in the midst of divorce due to an affair with a 25-year-old associate producer,” Emma DiGiovine, who worked on his show.

Fox is downplaying the dishonesty when it came to wedding vows, with a spokesperson saying,

“Within 24 hours of Jesse Watters voluntarily reporting to the Chief of Human Resources in November 2017 that he was in a consensual relationship with a woman on his staff, management met with both parties and a decision was made for the woman to be transferred to work on another program on the network where she currently remains.”

laura ingraham
http://www.foxnews.com/shows/ingraham-angle.html

DiGiovine now works on The Ingraham Angle.

Sources told The News the

“host informed the network of his adulterous relationship … shortly after Noelle filed divorce papers.”

In other words, his wife – Noelle Watters – had already busted him!

Watters, 39, has twin girls with wife, who filed for divorce in October.

(Facebook picture posted Sept. 9, 2017.)

That makes his mistress, DiGiovine, a homewrecker.

homewrecker

In the Fox turmoil, Watters replaced Eric Bolling on The Five when Bolling got his own show, but Bolling was booted “in September following a report he sent unsolicited photos of male genitalia to colleagues.”

Sources told The News rumors of Watters’

“relationship with DiGiovine spread within the network late last year as both posted social media photos of their outings together, including on a Caribbean vacation.”

Yes, unfortunately, things like this happen in practically every office and business, and probably more in TV journalism considering the looks, money, and egos. But there’s just something about this certain company. Maybe leadership from the top.

In this case, Watters has been in trouble before.

The Daily News remembered,

“In July 2014, he called voters who are single women ‘Beyoncé voters’ after her ‘Single Ladies’ hit.

“They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. … They need things like contraception, health care and they love to talk about equal pay.”

Then,

“His conservative humor bombed in October 2016 when he filmed a segment in Chinatown full of racist stereotypes. He greeted a Chinatown resident with a bow and asked another if he knew karate.

“Watters later apologized.”

And to complete the trifecta,

“The far-right funnyman landed in hot water again in April 2017 when he made what appeared to be a lewd comment about Ivanka Trump.

“I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” he said, while making a vulgar gesture. He took a vacation after the controversy, saying he hadn’t meant to be offensive.

“During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. … This was in no way a joke about anything else.”

So, to recap:

  • He violated his marriage vows and will probably pay a fortune over many, many years.
  • He has shown a lack of judgment at work before (and so have his supervisors, who let the stuff air).
  • His pieces judge other people (not that they don’t make themselves look like idiots), and
  • He’s in no position to be judging.

And I’d say that makes him unfit for his role. He should probably spend some time in local television, if that. But that’s not going to happen, and here is why:

The Daily Beast reported Watters – the adulterer, not the victim – and Sebastian Gorka dined with President Trump at The White House last Monday. Gorka is a Fox News contributor. Also, he was a White House official from January to August, 2017, and aide to former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

white house
Wikipedia

President Trump reportedly invited them because “he couldn’t get enough of them on TV,” and wanted to confab with them about what he’d seen on Fox News, politics, gossip, and his administration.

Chief of Staff John Kelly fired Gorka a week after firing Bannon. According to Wikipedia, Gorka claims “he resigned because he believed White House officials were undermining the ‘Make America Great Again’ platform.”

Sebastian Gorka
Sebastian Gorka, Wikiquote

Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported Trump loyalists like Gorka and fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “had West Wing meetings with Mr. Trump” over the past few weeks.

The Daily Beast says Gorka’s detractors call him “an academic fraud, an anti-Muslim zealot, and even an ally to Nazi and fascist sympathizers who never should have set foot on White House grounds.” But “he is a fan-favorite” to others.

The Daily News article did not say whether Watters brought along his own ‘+1’. He did tweet a picture of the autographed menu.

That brings up three questions:

  • How can Watters – who made his mark on O’Reilly’s show, of all places – be honest with viewers if he can’t be honest with his wife?
  • How can Fox be seen as neutral when it comes to politics?
  • And with all that has happened, is there something in the “water” at Fox News?

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Today, Merry Christmas to Comcast! You’re welcome!

No waiting until Christmas on Monday. Comcast, you obviously consider yourself too powerful.

comcast santa

Today, your hard-earned rate hikes take effect. Santa says you’ve been such a good company this year, only getting me concerned and wasting my time by forgetting when my Xfinity introductory offer ends.

comcast xmas 1
Comcast notice, page 1 of 7
comcast xmas 2
Comcast notice, page 2 of 7

money dollars cents

Does anyone reading this have suggestions for me for when that offer actually does expire? I need the internet (keeping net neutrality, which nobody is counting on Comcast to do), and pretty much the local and basic cable stations, especially news. Nothing special. None of the new programs I’ve read about but never seen. There are a lot of companies’ names that I’ve read about but never understood. (See new information released today, below.)

Seems like I’ll be looking at something very different and unfamiliar, since my building doesn’t do Verizon’s Fios nor satellite.

comcast old 595x227
Comcast’s old logo, before the feds let it buy NBC/Universal — under several conditions.

Comcast, I know costs go up but Philadelphia is your hometown, you have more to lose here than elsewhere and here, you actually own so much of your own programming and channels, including one for local sports fans (now called NBC Sports Philadelphia) and two broadcast, over the public’s airways.

One is WCAU-NBC10 (where I worked, 1998-2000, under General Electric, before the Universal and Comcast buyouts) and there’s WWSI-Telemundo62, the Spanish station really licensed to Atlantic City, whether or not it concentrates on people down the shore. In case you didn’t know, it comes just less than three years after NBC pulled its affiliation from New Jersey’s only major network affiliate, WMGM-40 in Atlantic City. That voice is gone.

SIDEBAR: Looking at NBC10’s website, I noticed the Channel 10 homepage weather featured “StormTracker4” and thought that was weird. NBC also owns its station in the next city up: WNBC-4 in New York. WNBC also brands its homepage weather “StormTracker4” but that makes sense, since it’s Channel 4!

So I tried another NBC-owned station that’s not on Channel 4 (anymore): WTVJ-6 in Miami. Their homepage weather is called “First Alert Doppler 6000” which makes sense for Channel 6 and is different from NBC’s two northern stations that are bigger, have different channel numbers, but the same name (at least at this moment). I wonder if this is regular or something simply went wrong.

Don’t forget synergy saves parent company Comcast money, and should be factored into our fees, too. (And kudos to Miami for actually selling their web weather preview!)

ANOTHER SIDEBAR: Newswise today, I noticed NBC10 beat Philadelphia competitor WTXF-Fox 29 (where I worked, 2016-2017) that had two headlines way up above the fold that were known and could’ve been written long ago — seven months and 15 months ago, respectively. Their personnel decisions should be going under the microscope.

fox29 headlines 12-20-2017
fox29.com (21st Century Fox)

First, on May 9, 2017, it reported Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian “with a criminal offense” in the May 2015 crash that killed eight people and injured 200 others.

Then, three days later on May 12, 2017, it reported, “Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro expanded on charges a Philadelphia judge approved a day earlier after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint” and that specific story, more than seven months old, was for some reason updated today!

fox 2nd article 05-12-2017
Your guess why a May 12 Associated Press article had to be updated Dec. 20 is as good as mine. I don’t know what’s new or corrected from May 12.
Second, a year and a half ago, in June 2016, I had trouble inserting my subway token at the Broad Street Subway’s Spring Garden station. There was no place to insert it. I ended up having to walk up and down steps at three of the four corners of that intersection to finally find a human to take my token and let me down to the train platform. So we knew tokens were being phased out. Besides, how many other cities already did away with them?
Christmas
SIDEBAR OVER: So Comcast/Xfinity, for now, Merry Christmas, but I don’t know how long my even more costly business with you will last. We’ll have to find out if and when our relationship changes in the future. I can’t wait to see (with my own eyes) what you propose.
xfinity 595x227

I also wonder, did @PHLCouncil, and especially my district’s @Darrell_Clarke, who happens to be city council president, allow your rate hike?

P.S. Readers probably figured out I had the Comcast portion of this blog post prepared since shortly after I got my bill (and read it) weeks ago. Coincidentally, I found several other articles on similar topics with updates and possible solutions, this morning alone!

old tv sets

First, The New York Times‘ “How to cut the cord on cable” which prepares us to use the internet and streaming services to save a ton of money. Our viewing habits are different, so we all should read it.

Second, according to The Seattle Times, a Washington State broadband company “filed a claim with the FCC saying cable giant Comcast is unfairly trying to force Wave to provide higher-priced sports TV channels to customers who don’t want them.”

Third, the fighting between station owners, and cable/satellite operators, for retransmission consent money that probably cost you from watching something you wanted at some point (with both sides blaming each other) continues.

According to TVAnswerMan, “AT&T’s U-verse TV service lost two more local stations last night due to a fee fight with their owner, Sarkes Tarzian, Inc.” Satellite provider Dish had been involved in the majority of recent fights. New England Patriots fans almost didn’t see the game against AFC-East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, until the Boston CBS station allowed carriage.

FTV Live‘s Scott Jones put it best:

Finally, Bloomberg warns, “Cable TV’s password-sharing crackdown is coming” and “it’s a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers — and billions of dollars in revenue.”The article reports TV Everywhere, started in 2009, “was an attempt to appeal to young consumers by letting them access cable or satellite shows on any device.” Of course, that “any device” part led to piracy and password-swapping since companies like Charter/Spectrum only force paying customers to enter their passwords for each device once a year. Somehow, tens of thousands watched just one subscriber’s streams simultaneously for free!

budget
Anyway, after all that, got a solution for my Comcast concern? I’d love to hear in a comment! (Got a web link?) And thanks!

Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?

matt lauer Wikipedia Commons
Matt Lauer, Wikipedia Commons

Today, it was Matt Lauer. Some of you want the newest, shocking details. The Miami Herald called the accusations against him “crude misconduct.”

Less known, it was a two-fer. Well-known Minnesota Public Radio host Garrison Keillor won’t be showing up for work anymore.

Last week, Charlie Rose went down, fired for alleged sexual harassment over the years.

The list of male journalists (and also politicians and some in the entertainment field) has grown since I last blogged about the subject, 20 days ago.

Don’t forget Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and the late Roger Ailes. And Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Louis CK and, of course, Bill Cosby.

There are now Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers.

Plus, President George H.W. Bush was implicated. And, of course, current President Donald Trump himself has been named repeatedly.

Donald Trump

There are too many others to mention. My previous blog post mentions others.

I hate the story and wish it would go away. Deep, painful wounds are being opened.

Yes, it looks like justice is happening to a degree — and that’s good — but American newsmen (there’s a word from the past, when the behavior may have been looked upon as typical, or maybe even normal and accepted) are making Trump look right in his spat with them and their bosses.

I didn’t hear Trump say so or tweet it, but it really doesn’t help the non-journalist American men who are his base.

And we’re learning way too many other people, including executives, kept the sexual harassment they witnessed or heard about to themselves, afraid of powerful or popular colleagues.

Keep in mind, teachers and several other professionals can go to JAIL for not reporting any suspicion — suspicion — but that involves another of the most vulnerable around us: minors. In Florida, failure to stop what you’re doing and report is now a felony.

 

florida dcf reporting
In case you mistakenly thought I was kidding!

Young women, in or just out of school, are expected to fend for themselves against these wolves — kind of like dangerously going out on stories by themselves in bad neighborhoods at night. These so-called multi-media journalists, or MMJs, shoot, write, edit, and present the news live on TV — and forced to look over their shoulders, as if they don’t have enough to do — and unfortunately this is becoming more popular.

Recently, I’ve been wondering: Has anybody interviewed the mothers of the accused men? Yes, I know the accused tend to be older. Their once-proud mothers may not be around any longer. But several have to be.

older moms
Clip Art

I don’t care where these guys worked. Notice I left out network references, since journalists should be friendly competition to find out the truth and make society better. And most have worked in more than one place. (I did the same with politicians’ parties.)

Politically, I’m close to the middle, depending on the issue. Since the 2016 presidential election, political parties have meant less and less to me every day. It seems both sides have folks who are corrupt, and unworthy of trust and respect. (Kind of like the candidates!)

newt gingrich Wikiquote
Newt Gingrich, Wikiquotes

I’m not justifying Connie Chung’s 1995 interview with new Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s (Newtie’s) mother — and he has a whole lot to answer for, personally — but I’d like to hear some moms’ thoughts on their sons who are accused of sexual harassment these days.

In the Chung-Kathleen ‘Kit’ Gingrich “just between you and me” exchange below, the trusting 68-year-old admitted Newt told her that then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “bitch.” Mrs. Gingrich died in 2003 at the age of 77.

 

Have any of you heard from any of today’s moms?

Lenny with a Brian Williams poster while working at NBC affiliate WCYB. It’s long-gone for a different reason. I don’t remember a Matt Lauer poster. Maybe there was a Today show ensemble instead. I wonder where it is tonight.

What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately

conscience

It seems every day in the news, I read about another powerful man resigning, taking time off from a high-profile job, or under police investigation for inappropriate sexual conduct.

The stories just keep coming, or the allegations against the men simply increase.

CNN offered a list of recent cases more than a week ago, on Nov. 1.

spacey
Spacey, via Clip Art

In the news these days are Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Ben Affleck, President George H.W. Bush, Chris Savino, Roy Price, John Besh, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes and Lockhart Steele. The names are in no particular order.

weinstein
Weinstein, via Clip Art

But wait, there’s more.

In addition to the names above, Fast Company lists Andy Signore, Harvey’s brother Bob Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, R. Kelly, Louis CK, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Matt Mondanile, Oliver Stone, Andrew Kramer, Elie Wiesel, Leon Wieseltier, Twiggy Ramirez aka Jeordie White, Tyler Grasham, Ethan Kath, Knight Landesman, Robert Scoble, Jeremy Piven, Hamilton Fish V, Andy Dick, Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman, David Guillod, Adam Venit, David Corn and Steven Seagal.

That’s a lot of names of people you may not have heard of, or at least famous in their own circles.

Some are more prominent than others. Look these guys up if necessary. I certainly needed to! The articles mentioned above have more details.

Some punishments are (or will be) more harsh than others.

Keep in mind, some of these guys have confessed, a few have explained (or tried to), and others deny what are simply allegations in their cases.

CNN mentions other well-known men with issues going back even further: Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Clarence Thomas and Bill Cosby.

I covered Cosby’s trial online from the TV newsroom. His retrial is set for the spring. And who knows what will become of Trump?

I hate when power goes to people’s heads, despite it being so natural, but to be accused of having the nerve to do many of these things and do them repeatedly calls people’s consciences into question.

What will they leave behind that matters, when their names are mud (defined online as “information or allegations regarded as damaging, typically concerned with corruption”)?

The rules have changed in recent decades, or they’re finally at least being enforced. Kudos to anyone who comes out to admit to the world #MeToo.

Then, there’s a guy who apparently doesn’t know the definition of conscience: Jack Abernethyfox news logo

21st Century Fox lists him as Co-President of the FOX News Channel and FOX Business Network, and also Chief Executive Officer of FOX Television Stations (just the the ones owned by the network, for example WTXF-Fox 29 in Philadelphia but not WSVN-Channel 7 in Florida).

Sounds like a busy man, with his hands in everything from two cable channels, to 28 local TV stations in 17 different cities. my network tv logo

His official bio adds, “Abernethy also oversees FOX Television Station’s (sic) first-run development and the programming service, MyNetworkTV.”

He must spend a lot of time making editorial and programming decisions. Maybe too many.

According to TVNewser, late last month, Fox News aired a 60-second commercial calling for the impeachment of President Trump.

That’s probably pretty good money for a full minute on such a high-rated cable network, the goal of any business.

But after showing up on viewers’ TV sets, Abernethy decided to change the channel — the part that’s shown when programs take a break and corporations make money.

color bars

It was reportedly paid for by a group backed by Bay Area billionaire philanthropist, environmental activist and Democratic donor Tom Steyer, and called “Need to Impeach.”

Now, TVNewser reports, “Lawyers representing Steyer are accusing Fox News of breaching a contractual agreement to air the ad.”

It quotes Abernethy: “Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money.”

Conscience?

Whose conscience?

The viewers who happened to be watching when the ad was shown? Yeah, our hearts should go out to them!

But what about the people who intended to watch news that’s now accused of being fake news? (I’m not taking sides on that but if true, they and the whole country would’ve suffered a whole lot more than the folks who caught a clip of that supposedly controversial commercial.)

This is extra surprising, considering Abernethy got promoted when Ailes left as part of the shake-ups behind the scenes and on Fox’s air because of sexual harassment (allegations, investigations and payouts).

Online, conscience is called “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.”

A synonym is “moral sense.”

Pulling a TV commercial off the air vs. a pattern of sexual harassment (allegations, investigations and payouts)?

Not even close when it comes to consciences!

Deflate-Gate or Battle over the Balls?

Yes, I’m going to venture into sports, but not exactly the play-by-play.New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

I really didn’t care much about this year’s Super Bowl and I actually still don’t. I’ve liked the New England Patriots but have been getting tired of seeing them win all the time. And I used to feel sorry for the Seattle Seahawks many years ago when they weren’t good (and still in the AFC). Richard Sherman’s rant a year ago didn’t help his team’s cause.

But my interest level is slightly higher since hearing about the latest Patriots cheating allegation.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about people who don’t have to work another day in their lives. What they’re really playing for is sportsmanship, honesty, and probably most important to them, their reputations and how they’ll be looked at in future generations.

I’ve liked the Patriots (except sometimes when they played the Dolphins) as you can see from the shirt I was wearing in April, 2005, out on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston.

April, 2005, on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston
April, 2005, on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston

I’ve also been to Gillette Stadium, but not for a game. It was rented out for my cousin Justin’s bar mitzvah party, coincidentally the next month.

May, 2005: outside Gillette Stadium...
May, 2005: outside Gillette Stadium…
... and inside, not dressed for football
… and inside, not dressed for football

I haven’t been a Bill Belichick fan since 2007, when he had a staff member videotape New York Jets‘ defensive coaches’ signals from the sideline. The NFL investigated, found the coach guilty of cheating, and fined him a half-million dollars.

Now, an NFL source told ESPN the league found 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls in last Sunday’s AFC championship game were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements. That could change the way a player grips the ball or the way it travels through the air, and could provide a competitive advantage. We’re back to the subject of cheating.

I hadn’t known each team provides 24 balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. They have to be inflated and weighed properly, and are inspected by a referee. Then, they’re put into bags on the sidelines until they’re needed. It’s possible weather played a role, as expertly explained by WCSH in Maine and AccuWeather.

A Kansas City radio station reports underinflated Patriots’ footballs were found at halftime of Sunday’s game and then inflated properly for the second half. The Indianapolis Colts’ footballs were all found to be inflated properly.

Yesterday, Belichick said he was “shocked” when he heard allegations his team used balls that were deflated after they were inspected. He also said star quarterback Tom Brady could give better details on his, quote “personal preference on his footballs.”

Later, Brady said he had nothing to do with deflating footballs, and that he hadn’t even been contacted by the NFL as part of their investigation! He did admit he gets the best grip at the lowest end of the league requirement.

These allegations came up the last time these teams played, and nobody is saying the Colts could’ve won this game. They lost by a whopping 45 to 7.

It’s the latest NFL controversy in a tough year for the league (but not tough financially). You’ll remember Ray Rice and the domestic violence policy. Adrian Peterson charged with misdemeanor reckless assault for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. And here is one I hadn’t heard about: Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, arrested for head-butting his wife and breaking her nose after she bit his lip to stop his sexual advances. This all has NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under fire with a women’s advocacy organization actually flying a “Goodell Must Go” banner over games. And now, there’s this investigation.

But what we’re talking about is decency. We don’t know the outcome of the NFL investigation. Many are wondering if it’ll even be done right. But the stain on the Patriots’ image cannot be wiped off so easily this time.

The Patriots play the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st. Unless something big changes things, I can’t support the Pats this time. So go, Seahawks (but still without an enthusiastic exclamation point).