The “game” of politics is no fun anymore. Discussing anything having to do with it used to be educating and entertaining, and sometimes enlightening, among friends and on social media. Not anymore. These days, it’s all for the kill.
Saturday, NBC Nightly News showed skirmishes in New York and Portland, Oregon. As correspondent Matt Bradley put it,
“America’s political conversation is forgetting to use its inside voices.”
It included soundbites from former Attorney General Eric Holder (D, more here)…
and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner (R, more here).
And this is Wagner responding to his comments without apologizing (“I shouldn’t have said what I said”) for what he said above.
“The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
(Video and subject matter will start at 35:15 in. Then, there are follow-up questions and Sanders actually says her quote at 38:21 in.)
Twice recently, Facebook friends who don’t even know each other have gotten into personal put-downs over issues in articles I posted.
Those experiences were new to me. I felt hurt and regret they happened among friends. Both happened earlier this month.
One of the combatants when I expressed disappointment over Nikki Haley’s resignation as United Nations ambassador had fighting words, but never really made a point. Later, after a lot of back-and-forth with another friend, he removed his comments.
I think Nikki Haley was our best ambassador at the United Nations since perhaps Jeane Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Sadly, that’s going back.
Not everyone agrees with me, but at least one was able to make his point with facts, rather than name-calling.
For example, this is what Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal – no fan of Haley’s – wrote in his column, last week. (I underlined my favorite part and emailed to thank him for it as soon as I read it, especially considering his audience.)
So disagreeing peacefully – whether with words or in person – can be done, and a prominent activist proved it.
The upcoming midterms are, of course, “the most important election in our lifetime.” Ever heard that before? Kind of like “the storm of the century.” Not to be believed until it actually happens.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs, and so will more than a third of the Senate.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone voted, the better or best candidate (depending on the number running) wins, and all will be satisfied they had their say?
But unfortunately, it’s more than that.
Of course, it’s which of the parties gets (or keeps) the majority in the House and the Senate that really matters, and those damn parties – and their “machines” – just won’t shut the hell up among their members or in TV commercials.
Neither will others who campaign for politicians outside of where they live. Some are current politicians hoping to score points for advancement; former politicians hoping to stay relevant, or make money by selling books or giving speeches; and groups like political action committees, corporations, labor unions, and other associations allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to give unlimited money to campaigns in 2010’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, lest their free speech right guaranteed by the First Amendment be compromised (as if they’re people).
A few days earlier on Facebook, I’d shown my disappointment that two senators worthy of respect felt the need to rally with a woman (Linda Sarsour) who comes as close to being the devil as any American.
THIS. New York just sent some of the most progressive candidates EVER to the State Legislature unseating corporate democrats- establishment operatives are STUNNED. We like it like that. #NYPrimaries ✊🏽🙌🏽https://t.co/pTgWnvdqO6
And making sure the world knows you’re Brooklyn-born but aligned with a group of people who can’t make peace among each other, can’t make peace with other Arabs, can’t make peace with other Muslims, and turned down every attempt by Israel to make peace. Ask most American presidents who’s responsible for the problem between the parties in the region (especially President Bill Clinton) and they’ll tell you it has been and still to this day is Palestinians who support killings and pay terrorists, and who refuse to admit Israel is the world’s one Jewish country.
Not sure how this is possible, but I am feeling extra Palestinian right now. 🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸
Every one of those tweets you saw above used Sarsour’s own words. None were complete retweets. And did you know she’s on the board of the Women’s March? Most of us are in favor of equality for all. It’s a goal, but we should not be supporting this organization with money, feet, or anything else. You have to know what they’re really about.
I was working the day of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, after President Trump’s inauguration, and it disgusted me watching how Sarsour got up in front of the crowd and talked about the Middle East! I know that’s not what so many people came from so far to hear, so I urge you to be careful with who you support. Click here to see who’s in charge of that fringe group that’s trying to fit in. Don’t let it. Instead, speak up, vote and organize without having to answer for them.
FINALLY, BACK TO THE STORY: All but one person who put up an emoji or commented on my Facebook post about those senators making the mistake of being in the wrong place with the wrong people agreed with me. I was pleasantly surprised by very liberal friends who were among them! But one, a retired public defender, did not. I took down four of the more personal posts between her and someone who disagreed with her, and am not showing any comments from either Facebook post here. I hope both sides eventually thought about what the other said, like old times.
Speaking of old times, it used to be, being in the middle – an independent thinker not automatically taking sides – was a good thing. In news, we figured if we left both sides angry, we did our job fairly and kept both from abusing power.
Not anymore. It seems more and more Americans are blindly endorsing the extremes of one side or the other (which may or may not be true), and their targets are moderates who don’t agree with them 100 percent, and of course journalists.
That’s making more and more independent thinkers frustrated and shoots down some old sayings like,
“If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.”
And sociographer Milton Himmelfarb’s,
“Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans.”
Not being a stereotype like in previous generations can be a good thing. In this day and age, it should keep those on the extremes from saying things that are too controversial. We just have to let them know.
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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. —
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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!
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.
“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.
“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.
So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune. This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People. Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!
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.
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.
The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The “Fakers” at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!
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…
Check out the fact that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately. They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!
Once again, false. The personal political beliefs of CNN's employees are of no interest to us. Their pursuit of the truth is our only concern. Also, Jeff's last name is spelled Z-U-C-K-E-R. Those are the facts. #FactsFirst🍎
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. So maybe “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” includes press releases.
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!
“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!
“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.”
“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 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.
The 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.
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.
Four 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.
ABC-TV’s Video ID w/WCVB-TV Boston Byline – Late 1977
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!)
“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.
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Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses and this is no different.”
The site adds,
“Trump’s wealthy friends tell him Amazon is destroying their businesses. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.”
An Axios reporter writes,
“Trump told Axios last year he doesn’t mind Facebook because it helps him reach his audience. He’s an old-school businessman who sees the world in terms of tangible assets: real estate, physical mail delivery, Main Street, grocery stores. It reminds me of the story (Axios co-founder and CEO) Jim (VandeHei) wrote a while back about Trump’s fixation with 1950s life. Amazon takes direct aim at some of the core components of mid-century business.”
One problem with the president’s thinking is Amazon abusing the U.S. Postal Service. On the contrary, one source says, “The post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon” and it actually added delivery on Sunday in some cities because Amazon made it worthwhile.
Sounds good for some jobs – just not good for some stocks.
“When private discussions have turned to the idea of busting Facebook and Google, Pence has listened with keen interest and is open to the suggestion that these two companies need shaking up.”
Also being shaken up: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Tonight, President Trump announced he fired embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, and plans to replace him with Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, who is also a Navy admiral.
I’m not aware if Trump fired Secretary Shulkin on Twitter like he did former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
CBS noted Shulkin raised eyebrows last summer for traveling to Europe with his wife, at the VA’s expense. Also, “He was one of five Trump cabinet officials whose travel practices were scrutinized by internal watchdogs.”
Plus, “In a 97-page report released last month, the VA’s inspector general found that Shulkin made ‘misleading statements,’ ‘improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets’ and turned an aide into a ‘personal travel concierge’ to plan ‘high tea’ and ‘Roman baths’ at the request of Shulkin’s wife.”
Shulkin worked for the Obama administration. Trump elevated him to lead the department when he took office.
“In 2006, while still in Iraq, Jackson was selected as a White House physician. Since arriving at the White House, he has directed the Executive Health Care for the President’s Cabinet and Senior Staff, served as physician supervisor for the Camp David Presidential Retreat, held the position of physician to the White House and led the White House Medical Unit as its director. He has served as White House physician during the past three administrations and was the appointed physician to the president for President Barack Obama. He currently serves as the appointed physician to the president for President Donald J. Trump.”
First, Facebook “said it redesigned the settings menu on mobile devices to make things easier to find. All the different sections under the settings tab will now be a in a single place.”
Second, it added a privacy shortcuts menu where users can add extra security when logging in, review and delete what was shared – from search history to friend requests – and manage profile information and who sees posts.
Third, according to CNBC, “Facebook is also introducing a tool called ‘Access Your Information’ to let you see the comments you’ve left or posts you’ve shared and delete them. The company also said it will make it easier for users to download their data, such as photos and contacts you’ve added to your account, and even move it to another service.”
Finally, the Terms of Service. New ones are proposed. Facebook says it’ll be updating its data policy to “better spell out what data we collect and how we use it.” The technology firm said that most of the updates “have been in the works for some time,” but the recent events “underscore their importance.”
Also, Mark Zuckerberg has decided he will testify before Congress. Facebook sources told CNN, “The 33-year-old CEO has come to terms with the fact that he will have to testify before Congress within a matter of weeks, and Facebook is currently planning the strategy for his testimony.” This is how he apologized and what he said about that, last week.
There has been a lot of pressure from lawmakers, the media and the public after the British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users at a time political campaigns were increasingly looking to sway voters on popular digital platforms. In 2016, it was the Trump campaign. Politico reported “nobody is certain how much” help it was.
BREAKING NEWS: Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. @SenJohnKennedy and I called on him to testify weeks ago – there is a lot to talk about! Next up, Cambridge Analytica must testify. https://t.co/MSZwNsw20Y
“The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy,” it continued. “The hearing will also explore broader questions about Facebook’s policies at the time Facebook Platform was launched, today, and in the future regarding both Facebook’s use of user information and the access to user information Facebook provides to others.”
“The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises… [T]he FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”
Last week, Facebook shut down a Palestinian news agency’s page for violating the anti-incitement policy by calling murderous terrorists “martyrs.” It reportedly happened after a meeting between Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and a Facebook representative. Safa’s staff claims it’s a legitimate news organization with 1.3 million followers, and the site’s social media manager said it “has not incited to violence and has followed all of Facebook’s guidelines for making posts.”
This comes a week after President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion spending bill. That part of the law – named for a 28-year-old former U.S. serviceman who was stabbed and killed while visiting Israel in March 2016 – cuts financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its payments to terrorists and their families.
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest critics. Today on MSNBC, he took his most direct shots, questioning Zuckerberg’s leadership.
Meanwhile, for Apple, Cook wants what Axios calls, “a major new location to house technical support staff, among other workers.”
And fitting for the bottom of this column: The porn star and the president.
Stormy Daniels wants to make President Trump answer questions under oath. He may consider it sadomasochism but this morning, her lawyer
“Michael Avenatti asked a federal judge for permission to depose the president and his private attorney Michael Cohen for a period ‘of no greater than two hours’ about a non-disclosure agreement she signed just 11 days before the 2016 election,” as CBS News described it. CBS explained, “The aim of the deposition is to determine if the president had a role in the $130,000 payment from Cohen to Daniels.”
Avenatti appeared on CBS This Morning shortly after filing this 31-page motion you can scroll through, saying it relies on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
He noted, in the case of Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones, the majority concluded the
“Constitution does not offer a sitting President significant protections from potentially distracting civil litigation.”
“It is well founded, it was well thought out, it’s incredibly documented,” Avenatti told CBS. “It’s well supported by the law and we’re confident” once they “get to the bottom of this,” they will prove America has been told “a bucket of lies.”
“We want to know the truth about what the president knew, when he knew it and what he did about it as it relates to this agreement. We’re gonna test the veracity or the truthfulness of Mr. Cohen’s, his attorney’s, statements,” he said.
The motion also references a meeting one week ago between lawyers, during which Avenatti said Trump’s lawyer was unable to answer whether Trump was a party to the nondisclosure agreement. Mark your calendar for a hearing April 30. That’s a Monday.
According to The Washington Post, “About 22.1 million of us settled in during Sunday night’s family hour to watch 60 Minutes and hear what Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, had to say about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.”
Here is some of Anderson Cooper’s interview, in case you missed it (and don’t say I didn’t warn the target audience that the newsmagazine was starting late!).
This story contains clips, including the parts about Daniels claiming she was threatened with her infant daughter, her lawyer saying Trump’s lawyer threatening to sue her was to intimidate her, and her explaining she lied in the nondisclosure agreement by denying an affair with Trump because of fear.
“While children may have been diverted elsewhere, it is a given that most school-aged youngsters by now have likely heard of the adult-film actress, just as children a generation ago learned about oral sex from a previous president. … This reminds us that indecency is not new to the White House.”
Instead, it was this month that NBC News reported:
— 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.’”
The adult film star claimed she had a one-time sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 – a year after Donald and Melania Trump were married – and was paid to keep quiet about it.
Clifford/Daniels alleges the nondisclosure agreement “she signed when receiving the funds is null due to the lack of president’s signature” and offered to return the $130,000 in exchange to speak freely about her interactions with Trump.
Trump lawyer Cohen (absolutely no relation) has said Trump “vehemently denies” any affair.
Also from The Washington Post: Click here for the billionaire behind the ads you’ve probably seen about impeaching the president. Click here for how the administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census is being met with fierce pushback from critics, mostly in Democratic states. Click here to see how a GOP congressman from Philadelphia’s outer suburbs just demonstrated how much of a headache retirements will be for Republicans in 2018’s midterm elections.
P.S. It may not feel like spring everywhere but America’s Pastime returns tomorrow, and get this: Every Major League Baseball team will play. CBS Sports called it “the return of a true Opening Day” and “that hasn’t happened since way back yonder in 1968,” when the schedule was announced, last September.
There are two big changes in weather: The snow has stopped and The Weather Channel is being sold.
Also, you can say the owner is a real person for two more reasons: The new owner is not a partnership between three corporations, like in the past – and he was one of the stars of the TV show Real People!
The Weather Channel and Local Now streaming service had been owned by The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast/NBCUniversal. Deadline pointed out those groups “experimented with longer-form programming and big-name talent” such as Al Roker and Sam Champion.
October 2014, Wikipedia
It also said Allen, “comedian-turned-entrepreneur, has been growing his Entertainment Studios, which became the largest independent producer of first-run syndicated programming.”
“This lawsuit was filed to provide distribution and real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media. The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100% African American-owned media receives ZERO. This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media.”
“The industry spends about $50 billion a year licensing cable networks in which 100 percent African American-owned media receives less than $3 million per year in revenue from that $50 billion stream of money that is spent to acquire content.”
Allen also accused media companies of adding insult to injury by throwing money at Sharpton, employed by Comcast-owned MSNBC – saying they used “the least expensive negro” to “cover” up their track record of “blatant” discrimination.
January 2015, flickr
Official White House Photo
On top of that, Allen called President Obama “bought and paid for” by Comcast.
“What happened in the Obama administration is former (FCC) commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker voted for the merger of Comcast NBCU and then 90 days later took a much higher paying job with Comcast after granting them the merger,” Allen said. “That was betraying the public’s trust as a public service.”
As of April 2017, that suit was pending. At least part of it had been dismissed, but Allen was appealing. I could not find anything on Entertainment Studios’ website while searching for Comcast, Warner, Time-Warner, or Sharpton.
Byron Allen: Black people are doing worse under President Obama.
Byron Allen standing by his controversial comments.
But he sued AT&T and forced the company’s subsidiary DirecTV to pick up seven Entertainment Studios Networks channels.
Looks like Allen has turned out to be the most successful of the Real People cast!
A look back at Real People:
Byron Allen heads to cheerleading school:
Byron Allen visits a bar on Venice Beach where disco on skates is king:
Byron Allen visits the experimental aircraft convention and talks to vets:
The syndicated Byron Allen Show, 1989-92.
We may have learned the fates of seven TV stations that will be divested if the $3.9 billion Sinclair-Tribune merger I’ve written against time and time again is allowed to happen.
Wikipedia calls him “an American political commentator, entrepreneur, author of a nationally syndicated conservative newspaper column, and host of a daily radio show and a nationally syndicated TV program called The Armstrong Williams Show.” The South Carolina native is also the largest African-American owner of television stations in the U.S.
“for president in 1948 as what the press called a Dixiecrat.” …
“He said that ‘on the question of social intermingling of the races, our people draw the line.’ And, he went on, ‘all the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.’
“His opposition to integration, which he often attributed to Communism, was the hallmark of his career in Washington until the 1970’s. In 1971, he was among the first Southern senators to hire a black aide — in recognition of increased black voting resulting from the legislation he had fought. From then on, black South Carolinians, like all other residents, benefited from his skills as a pork-barrel politician who took care of the home folks.
“‘We’ve looked out for the state,’ he said in a 1999 interview, ‘and everything that was honorable to get, we got it.’”
The name of the company came from both William’s mother’s middle name, Howard, and his father’s middle name, Stirk.
On President Trump’s “s__thole countries” comment: “An indictment about what’s in his heart.”
African-American conservative and South Carolina native talks about removing the Confederate flag.
Sinclair has been known for using shell corporations like Cunningham Broadcasting to own stations while Sinclair actually operates them, including programming them and doing everything else true owners would do, as an attempt to get by the rules.
Williams has been in business with Sinclair – a corporation with overtly and pushy conservative leanings – before.
Armstrong Williams on President Obama’s “arrogant and dictatorial style.”
The backstory is that Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting. He got NBC affiliate WEYI-TV in Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Mich., and CW affiliate WWMB in Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C., BUT according to Wikipedia,
“Both stations remain operated by Sinclair under a local marketing agreement, which resulted in allegations that the company was simply acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules. Williams defended the allegations, noting that he had full control over their programming, and received the majority of their revenue.”
He did buy five other stations, three from Sinclair.
Williams’ website has the headline “Howard Stirk Holdings seeks to acquire 7 local affiliates in early 2018!” (really in six cities) and a picture with logos, but no article. At least it says “seeks.”
I found connections to the Sinclair-Tribune deal in all the stations pictured, with just a question about one.
Let’s take a look at the stations (clockwise on above graphic):
* Sinclair’s WLRH-35 in Richmond, Va. (Fox affiliate with CW on subchannel), since Tribune owns competitor WTVR-6 (CBS affiliate).
* North Carolina’s Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point) is where I have my big question. Sinclair owns WXLV-45 (ABC affiliate) and also WMYV-48 (MyNetworkTV affiliate). Tribune owns WGHP-8 (Fox affiliate). I would expect one of those three to go, but the logo on Armstrong Williams’ website is for WCWG-20 (CW affiliate). Just last month, Hearst bought that station from Lockwood Broadcast Group, but it had already been operating the station under a shared services agreement. Hearst also owns the market’s NBC affiliate, WXII-12, making a duopoly. How any other owner would fit in, since Hearst just finished the sale and got a duopoly last month, is a mystery to me – unless The CW plans to change its affiliated station in the market. Note the station already has a good owner that puts a newscast on it, but nothing – not even public service — compares to money when it comes to broadcasting. (Also keep in mind, a month ago, Sinclair made a case to the FCC it should be able to own more than one of the top four stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C.)
* Sinclair’s KDNL-30 in St. Louis. This weak ABC affiliate with lousy ratings canceled its local news in 2001. From 2011 to 2014, a competitor aired news for it at 5 and 10:00. Then came a year with Family Feud and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire instead of news. Since 2015, it has been airing The Allman Report, which says it has a “debate-driven format,” at 5 and 10pm, and 6:30am. But what about news? Click here for the station’s website’s People page. Notice it’s empty! Tribune owns two competitors in St. Louis: KTVI-2 (Fox affiliate) and KPLR-11 (CW affiliate). Sinclair filed to own two stations in this market. The St. Louis situation could come down to which stations are and are not part of the top four rated in the city, per FCC rules. Read below for details.
* Tribune’s KZJO-22 in Seattle (MyNetworkTV affiliate), since Tribune also owns KCPQ-13 (Fox affiliate that Fox itself really wants to buy), and Sinclair owns both KOMO-4 (ABC affiliate) and KUNS-TV51 (Univision affiliate) there.
* Sinclair’s KOKH-25 (Fox affiliate) and KOCB-34 (CW affiliate) in Oklahoma City. Tribune owns both KFOR-4 (NBC affiliate) and KAUT-43 (independent) there.
* Dreamcatcher Broadcasting’s WGNT-27 (CW affiliate) in Norfolk, Va., which is operated by Tribune, while Tribune also owns WTKR-3 (CBS affiliate) there. Sinclair owns WTVZ-33 (MyNetworkTV affiliate) in Norfolk.
No price has been announced, but it was reported a few weeks ago Sinclair will sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting, owned by Sinclair’s founder’s survivors, and WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of Sinclair executive chairman David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.
That’s peanuts. Pennies on the dollar. No stations above even come close to WPIX-New York or WGN-TV Chicago, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion. But Sinclair will get to run them and possibly buy them back within eight years, if the rules are relaxed further by then.
Both Sinclair and Tribune own many TV stations. You just got a taste of how each company by itself owns several stations in several cities, and that number grows very large – too large for federal regulations – if combined. That means some stations will have to be spun off.
As I’ve written, Fox has wanted to buy several of those stations, especially Fox affiliates in cities with NFL football teams. Both Sinclair and Tribune own several Fox affiliates.
“Fox is in talks to acquire at least six stations from Sinclair, a source confirms. Discussions center Tribune-owned Fox affiliates in five markets — Seattle (KCPQ), Denver (KDVR), Salt Lake City (KSTU), Sacramento (KTXL) and Cleveland (WJW) — and a CW affiliate in greater Miami (WSFL) … contingent upon Sinclair winning regulatory approval for its $3.9 billion Tribune acquisition.”
Whether Fox will get to buy those stations remains to be seen. That’s because:
— Sinclair is already the nation’s largest TV station owner, based on the number of Americans its stations reach. That’s how the count goes, and Sinclair wants as many different people watching its stations – or able to pick them up – as possible. It probably won’t sell more than what’s necessary.
— Of course, it helps to own more than one station in a city, since synergies can save millions of dollars. As a small example, the company will only need one person to answer the phone. Both companies have pushed the legal limit on duopolies, and Sinclair has already asked for waivers. Again, it probably won’t sell more than what’s necessary.
— Fox will need money to buy all those stations, and it planned to sell its film, television, 22 regional sports networks and international businesses to Disney for $52.4 billion – but that plan is no longer certain.
There could be two stumbling blocks for Fox to sell everything but its broadcast network, TV stations, news and business channels, and its FS1/FS2 cable channels.
Reuters reported a group called Protect Democracy Project sued in District Court in Washington for any records of communications on the deal between the White House and the Justice Department, plus “any related antitrust enforcement efforts by the DOJ, to find out whether the president or his administration is improperly interfering with the independence of the DOJ out of favoritism for a political ally.”
Rupert Murdoch, Wikimedia Commons
According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, President Trump attacked AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. However, he even spoke to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch in December and congratulated him on his Disney deal!
Fox owns Fox News Channel, which Trump likes, and Time-Warner owns CNN, which the president does not like.
“sets limits on the number of broadcast stations – radio and TV – an entity can own, as well as limits on the common ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers. As required by Congress, the FCC reviews its media ownership rules every four years to determine whether the rules are in the public interest and to repeal or modify any regulation it determines does not meet this criteria.”
*Newspaper and Broadcast Station Cross-Ownership: No “common ownership of a full-power broadcast station and daily newspaper if” the station completely encompasses the newspaper’s city of publication, and they’re in the same Nielsen market, except if the newspaper or broadcast station is failed or failing (or they were grandfathered in). I’ve even come out in support of Fox saving the New York Post from extinction!
*National TV Ownership: No limit on the number of TV stations. (It used to be five.) Now,
“a single entity may own nationwide so long as the station group collectively reaches no more than 39 percent of all U.S. TV households. For the purposes of calculating the ‘national audience reach,’ TV stations on UHF channels (14 and above) count less than TV stations operating on VHF channels (13 and below), this is also known as the UHF Discount.”
The UHF Discount – established in 1985, according to Variety – only mattered when we used antennas because UHF stations had weaker signals and were harder to watch. That’s why they only counted half as much as a VHF station. (It wasn’t until 1965 that the FCC required all new TV sets sold in the U.S. to have built-in UHF tuners to receive channels 14+!)
“We need to take a holistic look at the national cap rule, including the UHF discount,” Pai said of the item. “The marketplace has changed considerably due to the explosion of video programming options and various technological advances that have occurred since the cap was last considered in 2004. So we need to examine whether our rules should change accordingly. That’s an important discussion that will be informed by the facts in the record—not anything else.”
“Giving a single broadcaster the means to buy up enough local stations to exceed the 39% cap is inconsistent with the statute and must be rejected.”
*Dual TV Network Ownership: No merger between ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Remember how NBC’s old Red and Blue radio networks were separated?
*Local TV Multiple Ownership: A company can own up to two TV stations in the same area if either:
*The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap. (I take this to mean Grade B overlaps, where people living in between two markets – like central New Jersey in between New York and Philadelphia, and Boca Raton in between Miami and West Palm Beach – can pick up stations in both cities that are owned by the same company. But, for example, CBS owns stations in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, so there must’ve been waivers.)
*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. This is important: ratings and number of competitors. Keep them in mind as you read further. According to Wiley on Media, “The Commission determined that a minimum of eight independently owned and operated television stations was required to preserve competition in local television markets” and “The FCC concluded that top four station combinations had the potential to provide a single firm with an unacceptably high market share.” This is why Sinclair-Tribune can’t simply keep the two highest-rated stations in a big city if the sale goes through, or more than one in a smaller city.
*Local Radio/TV Cross-Ownership: Restrictions are based on a sliding scale that varies by the size of the market.
*In markets with at least 20 independently owned “media voices” (defined as full power TV stations and radio stations, major newspapers, and the cable system in the market) an entity can own up to two TV stations and six radio stations (or one TV station and seven radio stations).
*In markets with at least 10 independently owned “media voices” an entity can own up to two TV stations and four radio stations.
*In the smallest markets an entity may own two TV stations and one radio station.
*Local Radio Ownership: Restrictions are also based on a sliding scale that varies by the size of the market, but there’s no need to go into it here.
So the bottom line for now is that at this point, we’re learning some more about what Sinclair and Tribune intend to do with other stations they won’t be allowed to keep if their deal goes through — but whether their deal goes through — and whether Fox is able to buy the stations it wants because Comcast outbid Disney for Sky, but still needs approval — is up in the air(waves).
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P.S. In the spirit of weather, here were Casey and Frisky yesterday. As usual, Frisky (left) was more interested in Mother Nature’s show than Casey (right).
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.
Roger Ailes in June 2013, via Wikipedia Commons
Bill O’Reilly, via FoxNews.com
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.
Rupert Murdoch, Wikimedia Commons
James & Lachlan Murdoch, both Wikipedia
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.
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.”
Ahead 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
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
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.”
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.
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.’”
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence.” … “Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”
But a group spokesman says they’ll be there anyway.
The entertainment magazine reports after the Parkland massacre, the President said,
“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
“research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism — and which aren’t.”
The ratings will be like a traffic light. A real newspaper publishing good content will get green. A fake news site will get a red. Then, according to Nieman,
“A site that’s not putting out deliberately fake news, but is overwhelmingly influenced in its coverage by a funder that it’s not eager to disclose? Maybe a yellow.”
And the ratings — called “nutrition labels” – will come with “a 200- to 300-word write-up on each source’s funding, its coverage, its potential special interests, and how it fits in with the rest of the news” world since the founders acknowledge not all of the sites in a given color category are equal.
I can’t wait for this to start. The folks behind NewsGuard are Steven Brill (founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV) and L. Gordon Crovitz (former publisher of The Wall Street Journal).
Brill told CNN “algorithms aren’t cutting it, so real-life reviewers are needed to judge reliability.”
They say their “goal is to give everyone the information they need to be better informed about which news sources they can rely on — or can’t rely on.”
Analysts will work in pairs. They may not settle on a rating if they feel they don’t have enough information to be confident, or have editors weigh in if the analysts disagree.
Plus, “The company will also have ‘a 27-7 ‘SWAT team’ that responds to breaking news and news items that are suddenly trending.”
It plans to stay in business by licensing “NewsGuard’s encyclopedia of news sources to social media platforms and search engines” – in other words, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, which could leave out the reds or use them with a warning – and offering advertising for businesses that “want to be spared any embarrassment that comes from advertising on deliberately fake sites.”
Brill said the tech companies will pay because, “We’re asking them to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”
“Clickbait-focused publishers such as Buzzfeed had benefited enormously from being promoted on Facebook – and owed much of their success to lightweight ‘shareable content.’ But after the changes, traffic dropped sharply. Facebook rushed to assure publishers it was just a test. It has now formally abandoned the experiment, counting “feel-good news and service content” publisher LittleThings among the casualties.”
The Register explained Facebook has “come under fire” since the 2016 Presidential election. First, the News Feed was “hand-curated by low-paid graduates” but “accused of political bias.” Then it replaced the people “with an algorithm that valued ‘engagement’” but a “low bar for inclusion” exposed more “inflammatory and bogus material.”
It also quoted former senior Facebook exec Antonio Garcia Martinez, who explained how viral content was given a premium value.
“Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is,” Martinez said. “If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.”
And Donald Trump’s campaign – which spent very little money – was playing by Facebook’s rules since “rural targets were cheaper to reach than urbanites, and Trump wanted to reach them, so Facebook ad spending proved to be very good value.”
Bottom line, according to The Register:
“The results of Facebook abandoning this particular experiment is that clickbait-hungry publishers will continue to rely on the platform for exposure, rather than building their own brands, and Facebook will rely on clickbait-y free content to keep people on the site. It’s a marriage of the desperate.”
That’s not what I wanted to read.
I suggest Zuckerberg suspend all Fox and News Corp. accounts from Facebook for a week. Every newspaper, TV station, news anchor, etc. That should show ‘em!
Meanwhile, Miami’sCNN’s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wants regulators to look into the two companies.
Keep in mind, CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7. (That’s except for when ABC/Westinghouse’s Satellite News Channel competed from June 21, 1982 until Oct. 27, 1983, and CNN founder Ted Turner bought it.)
“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner (his own company, which AT&T wants to buy for $85 billion, and may put his own job in jeopardy -Lenny) or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at the monopolies that are Google and Facebook. … That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”
But the banking and auto industries are not journalism. They’re not protected by the First Amendment. And intelligent people will turn to quality news, even if it’s hard to find, and that has already become harder and harder for years.
Advice for Zucker: Do a better job on TV. In contrast to President Obama, explain why you hired so many digital staffers a year ago, only to lay off roughly 50 of them last month – and why you shouldn’t be one to go.
And the kicker (rather than “kick ass”), according to the Fox article,
“Last month, YouTube star Casey Neistat — hired by Zucker on the recommendation of his teenage son — abruptly walked away from CNN less than two years after CNN reportedly paid more than $20 million for his video-sharing startup Beme.”
Time Warner is a big company. It owned AOL – one of the early pioneers of the Internet – until about the time you were hired. Why didn’t TW compete? Or did it, and free enterprise sent the experiment to wherever those 50 laid off digital staffers are?
Zucker, get more people to your website and have your digital salespeople do a better job, you sore loser, or you’ll be out of a job!
Back to 21st Century Fox’s Murdoch. He got a black eye about a week ago when Philadelphia-based Comcast (the cable company that also owns competitor NBC) topped his company’s offer to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC it didn’t already own. That could halt Fox’s attempt to consolidate ownership of the British broadcaster. It has owned 39 percent of Sky for years.
Reuters reports Comcast offered £12.50 per share ($31 billion), significantly higher (more than 16 percent) than Fox’s £10.75 per share. (Yes, I know how cheap Fox is. I worked for them. The one exception is the NFL.) Sky already agreed to be sold to Fox, but the British government delayed the takeover because it’s concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s influence. In 2011, he closed the News of the World after its journalists admitted hacking phones to get scoops, but he still owns The Sun and Times newspapers.
Fox promised to keep Sky News fully independent for ten years, but faces skepticism across the pond. And with a ten-year promise, I don’t understand how it could be sold to Disney.
Reuters reports Sky’s shares jumped more than 20 percent, while shares of Comcast, Fox and Disney all fell. So if the Sky-to-Fox first part doesn’t happen, investors may expect a bidding war.
“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders. … That’s what we tried to do, and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”
B&C claims Pai is “saying the previous commission should have considered the cap and the discount together, which it is now doing.”
The attorneys general are from Illinois (home to Tribune), Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Virginia.
They – according to B&C – argue “getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”
According to The Sun, Sinclair claims “the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”
The company announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)
According to Variety, Sinclair will sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!
And it would sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.
Those stations are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.
On top of that, Variety says,
“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”
The $3.9 billion deal – if it goes through – would make the nation’s largest television broadcast company even larger. Sinclair is already largest with 191 stations, while Tribune brings another 42 stations before divestitures. The post-merger reach would be 72 percent of U.S. homes. (Does that include the huge markets of New York and Chicago?)
I’m sure Buffett makes money but he has no vertical integration. Graham was supposed to help run the station after the sale, and it still has a Graham station look. So does its website. Also, Buffett is not the type to get attached (except maybe to Omaha) and would be willing to cash out of the price is right.
If he sells WPLG to Fox, then it makes sense ABC would probably call WSVN. Makes the most sense by far, but I wouldn’t swear on anything. In 1988, CBS seemingly surprised everyone by buying the former WCIX instead of affiliating with WSVN.
Jessell also reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”
I also want to point out another example of a TV network not renewing a local TV station’s affiliation because it competed for viewers in part of a city where the network owned its own station. The last blog mentioned NBC getting rid of WMGM in Atlantic City because of its Philadelphia station, WCAU, and how ABC was much nicer years earlier when it paid the owner of KNTV in San Jose to leave the network because it owned KGO-TV in San Francisco. (WMGM shut down its news department.)
Since then, I remembered NBC dropped WHAG (now WDVM) in Hagerstown, Md., in the middle of 2016 because of Washington, DC’s WRC. Since then, the independent station really became competition, expanding its coverage area by 1.2 million households, also serving Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.V. and Winchester, Va.
Also, I learned NBC dropped KENV-DT in Elko, Nev., which served a lot of the Nevada side of the Salt Lake City market. It aired its own news, but was run out of Sinclair NBC affiliate KRNV in Reno. That goliath Sinclair also owns three stations in Salt Lake City, but not the NBC affiliate. KENV is actually owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, and it shut down its news department.
And Jessell also wrote he’s hearing “Fox is once again pushing the idea that it should represent its affiliates in all retrans negotiation.” That means instead of each station demanding money from cable and satellite companies to carry them, Fox would do the work for them all and send each station its share. It would carry the power of nearly 200 stations, and those stations won’t have to bother negotiating. Of course, Fox would also carry power over the stations, and the network’s opinion is its programming (sports) makes the stations worth more and will take its share. Plus, somebody has to pay for Thursday Night Football!
For me, it was nice peeking out the window and watching the snowstorm as I wrote, but like this blog, and certain stations’ newscasts, it appears to be over.
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