“a chance to pull the court significantly to the right for decades to come. This is seismic — for politics as a whole, for the court and, ultimately, for the millions of Americans whose lives are shaped by its rulings. Replacing Kennedy with a more conservative justice would likely lead to new limits on abortion and LGBT rights, and could easily be the most consequential act of Trump’s presidency. … The confirmation battle will be intense. Republicans have just a one-seat majority in the Senate, and Democrats will be under enormous pressure from their base to try as hard as they can to block Trump’s nominee. Both sides are already prepared for a brutal fight.”
Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, but has long been the court’s swing vote. Winning him over was often the only way to build a majority.
The courts are our last line of defense. With @POTUS & @SenateMajLdr shifting the balance of our courts against women's rights, workers rights, and voting rights, we're not going down without a fight. #SaveSCOTUS
In the final hours of 30 years on the bench, SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy heralded in a #MuslimBan and left open the question of whether the far right has a #LicenseToDiscriminate against the #LGBTQ community & other marginalized groups. And *now* he's quitting. #SaveSCOTUS
The stakes for this SCOTUS vacancy couldn’t be higher: the progress we’ve made on health care and the rights of women, workers, LGBTQ people, and people of color are all on the line. To protect our rights, we must #SaveSCOTUSpic.twitter.com/y9CAmXPSue
I was always a union member while teaching in Miami. Florida is a “right to work” state (that phrase makes no sense) and I didn’t have to join UTD, the United Teachers of Dade – but I did anyway for the benefits, protection, and because it was the right thing to do since they negotiated my pay in accordance with crushing state laws.
For example, in March, the Florida legislature passed new collective bargaining rules into law. It doesn’t target all public unions; just the teachers who spend more time with the Sunshine State’s children for most of the year than their parents. And the schools that feed many of those kids breakfast and lunch at free or reduced prices, while their parents let them starve or eat garbage all summer. According to the Tampa Bay Times, it requires
“local unions to prove they represent a majority of the teachers in their districts. The measuring stick: Having at least half of all employees eligible to be in the union paying dues.
“If they fall short, they could lose their authority to negotiate working conditions and pay with the school boards. And many might find themselves in that spot: Some larger districts including Miami-Dade and Pasco hover just below the level, as do some smaller ones including Calhoun.
“The big question is, what would happen next? Are unions that miss the mark dissolved, and their contracts along with them? … The answer remains unclear.”
So much for attention to detail and consequences, two things members of the Florida legislature could be taught! And most teachers are women, who these lawmakers are more likely to take advantage of. But I have to say, it also did the right thing on guns, the same month, and the NRA is suing. Details on that below.
Corporate interests have been rigging the system against workers for decades – and the Supreme Court just handed those interests a huge victory in #Janus v. AFSCME. But I’ve got news for the billionaires behind this case: we’re not going anywhere. #Unionpic.twitter.com/LAxpB1k3iY
But not being a union member would’ve made me a freeloader, and I write that with love and respect for many or my co-workers who chose that route. Some teachers complained about the money, and they may have had bigger families to support and student loans to pay back, but they would’ve made less if it wasn’t for the union. Now, that’s in dire jeopardy.
Earlier, as a member of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (before its merger with SAG, the Screen Actors Guild) in Philadelphia TV, I knew what I was getting into, just as the public union employees did.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME was an attack on working people and our fight to make our lives better together. America needs unions now more than ever. Show your solidarity by sharing your “union” photo using #Union. #FreedomtoJoinpic.twitter.com/uIdeOYXh5a
“The court struck down so-called ‘agency fees’ that unions collect from non-members. Those fees can only be used for collective bargaining, not overtly political activity.”
But the Court, by a 5-4 vote, sided with critics who
“say that because these unions are bargaining with the government, their bargaining is inherently political.”
Now, Axios predicts
“without agency fees, unions won’t be able to afford the lawyers and other staff who drive their negotiations, making membership ultimately seem like a worse deal.”
I’ll add, this seems lopsided, and a fair deal for workers – not too much but also not too little – ultimately helps everyone. Fewer union members mean less money for Americans and more people on welfare. Is that what we want?
Supreme Court rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!
Besides, to the justices of the Supreme Court, aren’t most things inherently political?
We all pay taxes for schools, even if we don’t have children attending. We pay for police and fire departments, even though we hope we never need them. (I wonder what percentage of the population actually uses their services annually.)
It’s not a good day to be one of your town’s finest or bravest. Its leaders are naturally going to try to take your pay and benefits!
There’s also paying for parks we don’t go to, and roads we never drive on.
But nobody can opt out of those taxes because they are needed for society and the future.
The critics claim membership in a union violates their First Amendment rights but money is not speech, unless you agree with the Citizens United case. (Wikipedia says back in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled “the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.” That gave nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations Constitutional protections that had gone only to actual, real people for more than 200 years, since the time of this country’s founders. Is it right they gave the rich more say and to do it secretly?)
Plus, the critics claim public unions aren’t fair because the workers vote, urge others to vote and then negotiate with the people elected. But don’t ordinary citizens have those same rights, the ability to assemble organizations and make requests of leaders on all levels?
Wikipedia reports the four countries that gained union worker percentages from 1970 to 2003 were Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium. Those aren’t countries you see on any “bad places” lists.
Here, our nation’s government was built on a system of checks and balances. No government nor private employer wants to pay their workers more, and the people don’t want to pay any more taxes.
Already, too many states and municipalities are in the red over pension obligations that added up over the years. It’s not fair politicians from the past gave away too much in order to keep their own jobs on Election Day. Blame them, not the workers. (Compare it to how we’ll leave climate and the environment to our children and grandchildren).
“Public approval of unions … declined to below 50 percent for the first time in 2009 during the Great Recession. It is not clear if this is a long term trend or a function of a high unemployment rate, which historically correlates with lower public approval of labor unions.
“One explanation for loss of public support is simply the lack of union power or critical mass. No longer do a sizable percentage of American workers belong to unions, or have family members who do. Unions no longer carry the ‘threat effect’: the power of unions to raise wages of non-union shops by virtue of the threat of unions to organize those shops.”
But we know good teachers need raises (along with support from administrators, etc.) or they’ll leave the profession, while athletes arguably make too much money. (And yes, educators know what they’re getting into.)
So what do the citizens of this country plan to do to make things fair and right, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling?
The Tampa Bay Times quoted the president of the Association of Calhoun Educators in northern Florida, which was formed just two years ago. Until then, there was no collective bargaining unit to support teachers.
“We had no contract. … They would say, yes, there is money for a raise or, no, there isn’t. Whatever they decided, went.”
That doesn’t sound like a place where people who value themselves or their profession would want to work, unless they have no other choice. Perhaps that’s what the good folks of Calhoun County wanted. That’s too bad because I can’t imagine a bright future there, with jobs and rising property values.
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, wrote:
“With its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court today turned its back on American workers—the educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and public servants who make our communities strong and safe.
“The Court’s ruling is a massive gift to the special interests and billionaires who already benefit from a system that is rigged in their favor and against the rights and freedoms of working people. They brought this case to silence our voice and make it more difficult to join together to advocate for our students and communities.
“But make no mistake: we will not be silent. We are organized and determined to stand together and fight for the resources our students need to succeed.
“As we saw earlier this year in state after state that went #RedForEd, educators—joined by parents and community members—are a force to be reckoned with. We will do what it takes to roll back years of funding cuts and to make sure our students have up-to-date textbooks, desks and chairs that aren’t broken, the latest technology, and adequate school buildings.
“Now, we must continue to build this movement by coming together to advocate for students like never before.
“Thank you for your continued involvement with the National Education Association. Your support of great public schools for every child matters more and more every day.”
Lily Eskelsen García, NEA
Randi Weingarten, AFT
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten wrote:
“The Supreme Court may have ruled against us today, but don’t count us out.
“The right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court showed their true colors today. Their thirst for rigging the economy toward the powerful trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them. But, despite this decision, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead.
“Our union comprises some of the hardest-working and most compassionate people in the country. Every day, we care for patients, educate and support America’s children, ensure high-quality public services, and provide a world-class system of higher education. Together, through our union, we fight not just for ourselves but for the people we serve. When the Supreme Court overturns 40 years of precedent in an effort to weaken our ability to bargain for what we need, then we have to recommit ourselves to standing together in solidarity.
“Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are celebrating right now. The best way to take the wind out of their sails is to show the world that, despite their attacks, we’re sticking together. Let them know you’re sticking with the union.
“Let’s be clear, the Janus case was about defunding unions. It was about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why the case was being funded by wealthy donors and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to ‘defund and defang’ unions. Then, the Kochs, after receiving the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and ‘break’ the teachers unions. Why? Because unions fight for a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.
“Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. And we will continue to make the case—in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, at our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November—through organizing, activism, and members recommitting to their union.
“When we fight for resources for schools, we’re fighting for students. When we fight for safe staffing standards for nurses, we’re fighting for patients. When we have the resources to do our jobs, all of society benefits. We may be a threat to the power of wealthy corporate interests, but by sticking together, we are stronger than their attacks.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who you knew as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210 but now serves as a vice president on the AFL-CIO’s executive council, said:
“The Court made the wrong decision; a decision in favor of increasing the power of employers at the expense of their workers. Without engaged workers, union protections become more vulnerable. This ruling is a direct attempt to weaken unions, the very organizations who allow workers to speak together as one, to have a voice in their wages, their safety at work, and their healthcare and retirement. The Supreme Court’s decision directly overturns a decision made by the Court in 1977. Have workers lives improved so much that unions can now be so blatantly attacked? Are workers all better off now? Are employers sharing in their success with all those who make them successful? No.
“This shameful decision only serves to strengthen our resolve to find ways to protect working families in this country. Now more than ever as professionals, we must come together and renew our commitment to speak as one. To be strong in the face of all attempts to minimize us. We know that fighting for a better life for you and your family is what unions do. It’s time for unions, and the workers who make them vibrant and strong, to show this court and those who would attack and diminish working people that this is unacceptable. When workers come together, workers win, and that did not change today.”
WATCH: Florida Evans arguing with her husband over working as a black maid on Maude.
MORE MAUDE: Carol is passed over for a promotion due to gender discrimination.
AND THE MOTHER of all Maude labor episodes: Walter angry after workers at Findlay’s Friendly Appliances decided to unionize. This one starts with the classic opening theme!
The historic moment happened weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people – 14 students and three staff members.
Furthermore, Gov. Rick Scott – described by the paper as a “staunch Republican and longtime National Rifle Association member” – did not use his line-item veto authority to remove money from the sweeping $400-million school safety bill “for what many consider the most contentious part of the legislation – a program that allows school employees to bring firearms on campus.”
“The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and bans the sale or possession of ‘bump stocks,’ which allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns.
“The NRA almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of banning people under the age of 21 from buying firearms.
“Under Florida law, Scott could have used his line-item veto authority to reject the funding for a $67 million ‘guardian’ program that would allow some teachers to volunteer to carry guns after undergoing 132 hours of firearms and 12 hours of diversity training.”
It should also be noted Gov. Scott is expected to be running against longtime U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Thank you for helping this blog reach 15,000 hits, overnight!Even better, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.comwith either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish.I’m also available for writing/web contract work.
But the deal announced in May, 2017, still hasn’t happened.
To follow through, it would need government approval: from the Justice Department for antitrust worries and the FCC to approve ownership limits. (And Sinclair may have already gotten “help” from FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who was selected by President Trump. Pai is now under investigation by his own agency’s inspector general. Keep reading.)
— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)
The $3.9 billion deal would still require a number of stations to be sold. The questions partially responsible for holding things up were how many, and in which cities? About six weeks ago, I explained TV ownership limits are very complicated, with four rules in play: 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” – 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.
Plus, there have been literally thousands of complaints from activists who know how important this is. Click here to see 4,497 total FCC filings since July 5, 2017, including 891 in the past 30 days. THANK YOU if your name is on the list! Keep reading for directions on how to say no.
Now, click here to see some of the “33 concurrently filed applications on FCC Form 315 that seek the Commission’s consent to a transaction,” back in July, 2017, and what the companies consider “Public interest benefits of the transaction.” You’ll soon know better if you actually believe there are public interest benefits! You’ll also notice the companies fighting for every last station they could, to grow even larger.
“The Smith family, which includes brothers David, Robert, Frederick, J. Duncan and a flurry of family trusts, is worth a combined $1.2 billion, Forbes estimates, based on the family members’ ownership of stock in publicly traded Sinclair Broadcasting, share sales over the past 15 years, dividends and some private assets,” it read.
“Revenues have increased 281% over the last decade to $2.7 billion in 2017, while Sinclair’s share price has increased 367% over the same period, pushing its market capitalization up to a recent $3 billion. All of this growth has occurred under the control and oversight of David Smith, 67, the chairman and former CEO of the company, as well as the son of the company’s founder Julian Sinclair Smith,” it continued.
Forbes quoted Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at Benchmark Capital, as saying, “Sinclair plays some of the hardest ball of anyone,” from acquiring stations to negotiating advertisement pricing and retransmission fees, which are some of the highest in the business.
SIDEBAR: Wednesday, The TV Answer Man Phillip Swann reported PlayStation Vue removed Sinclair-owned local stations affiliated with Big 4 networks from its streaming lineup without an explanation. Just Tuesday, subscribers got an e-mail that live channels would be replaced May 1 (that day) with an On-Demand version.
Sinclair said it pulled the stations and blamed “Sony (for) failing to comply with certain contractual provisions.” It didn’t elaborate but urged Sony subscribers to consider other video distributor options, including Sony competitor YouTube TV.
Sony hasn’t commented.
The Baltimore Sun reports, “Sony describes PlayStation Vue as a live streaming TV service for up to five devices at once that offers sports, news and other programs along with premium channels and a cloud DVR.”
BACK TO THE STORY: Under David Smith, who wouldn’t comment for the article, Sinclair went from three cities – Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus – to what it is today.
“To ‘purely make money’ in a scale-oriented business, David bought up as many broadcast stations as possible. First he concentrated on secondary markets, like Memphis, St. Louis and San Antonio, where operation costs were cheaper than in places like New York or Chicago.
“‘I believed that certain things were going to happen in the television industry, the most important being consolidation,’” David told Forbes in 1996.
So much for public service!
But then came the controversial Cunningham, arguably rigging the system.
“In the 1990s, the company pioneered a technique to circumvent an FCC rule limiting ownership of more than one TV station per metro area. David’s mother, Carolyn Smith, started another business, Cunningham Broadcasting. Following Carolyn’s death in 2012, most of the ownership of Cunningham Broadcasting shifted to a family trust, which is included in the overall Smith family valuation.”
So Cunningham really isn’t independent, as its website claims!
“The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is raising questions at the FCC about whether Sinclair Broadcasting is exercising control over a minority-headed TV group with which it has struck a series of local marketing agreements (LMAs).
“In a July 1 filing at the FCC, Rainbow/PUSH said it plans to study whether the LMA deal between Sinclair’s KABB(TV) San Antonio and Glencairn’s KRRT(TV) Kerrville, Tex., violates the commission’s prohibition against common ownership of two local stations. (The rules were more strict then.)
“‘Rainbow/PUSH has not had an opportunity to fully research this matter, and thus preserves here the question of whether Glencaim is the alter ego of Sinclair,’ the group told the FCC.”
So we know Cunningham, set to buy Tribune stations in Dallas and Houston, appears to be a shell company, and we can make bets who will operate and control it if the Sinclair-Tribune deal ever comes to fruition.
“Cunningham Broadcasting owns the FCC broadcast licenses and operates through various management agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. WNUV-TV in Baltimore, Maryland; WTTE-TV in Columbus, Ohio; WMYA-TV in Anderson, South Carolina; WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio; WVAH-TV in Charleston, West Virginia; WDBB-TV in Bessemer, Alabama; WBSF-TV in Flint, Michigan; WGTU-TV in Traverse City, Michigan; KBVU-TV in Eureka, California; KCVU-TV in Chico-Redding, California; WEMT-TV in Greeneville, Tennessee; WPFO-TV in Portland, Maine; WYDO-TV in Greenville, North Carolina; and KRNV-TV & KENV-TV in Reno, Nevada.”
Looking at its list of stations — something the Fox Television Stations Group never posted on its own website despite me calling them out for it here, here, here, here (so far in no particular order, although I may have missed a couple), and my favorite, here — you may realize Sinclair recently bought Bonten Media Group (Disclosure: I used to be Digital Media Manager at the former Bonten’s WCYB but left before the sale.) but Cunningham bought the stations Bonten operated. Notice those stations listed on the website have no websites of their own. And I’ll get back to Fox later. I’ll bet they can’t wait!
Another dead giveaway is that Cunningham is based at 2000 W. 41st Street, Baltimore MD 21211 and coincidentally, Sinclair flagship WBFF-45 (Fox affiliate) has the same address!
“For years (before 2012), Fox Television Stations’ WUTB Baltimore gave Fox considerable leverage in its sometime contentious affiliation negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“If Sinclair ever got out of line, Fox could threaten to yank its affiliation from Sinclair’s flagship station WBFF Baltimore and move it to WUTB.
“But last May, Fox relinquished that leverage when it extended its affiliation with WBFF and 18 other Sinclair stations for five years starting Jan. 1, 2013, and granted Sinclair an option to buy WUTB.
“Sinclair is now exercising that option by assigning it to a third party, Deerfield LLC.
“According to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal, Deerfield is buying WUTB and allowing Sinclair to run the MNT affiliate through joint sales and shared services agreements.
“The deal gives Sinclair a virtual triopoly in Baltimore where it also operates CW affiliate WNUV, which is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, Sinclair’s longtime duopoly partner that is controlled by trusts for the children of Sinclair’s controlling shareholders.”
But Sinclair and Deerfield were already in cahoots.
“to buy six television stations from Newport Television LLC for $412.5 million and agreed to buy Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. … Sinclair also agreed to sell the license assets of its San Antonio station KMYS and its WSTR station in Cincinnati to Deerfield Media Inc. Sinclair will also assign Deerfield the right to buy the license assets of WPMI and WJTC in the Mobile/Pensacola market, after which Sinclair will provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations under shared services and joint sales agreements.”
“Sinclair Broadcast is getting six stations in five markets for $412.5 million:
— Cincinnati (DMA 35) — WKRC (CBS)
— San Antonio, Texas (DMA 36) — WOAI (NBC)
— Harrisburg-Lancaster (DMA 41) — WHP (CBS)
— Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla. (DMA 60) — WPMI (NBC) and WJTC (Ind.)
— Wichita, Kan. (DMA 67) — KSAS (Fox)
“Sinclair is also acquiring Newport’s rights to operate third-party duopoly stations in Harrisburg, Pa. (CW affiliate WLYH), and Wichita, Kan. (MNT affiliate KMTW). Those rights include options to buy the stations. …
“While Sinclair was buying, it was also selling.
“It said it would spin off its CW affiliate in San Antonio (KMYS) and its MNT affiliate in Cincinnati (WSTR) to Deerfield Media Inc., presumably to comply with the FCC ownership limits. In the deal, Deerfield also picks up an option to buy two of the stations it is acquiring from Newport, WPMI-WJTC Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla.
“Sinclair said it intends to ‘provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements.’
“In yet another deal, Sinclair said it is buying WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg from Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. Since 1998, Sinclair has operated WTTA pursuant to a local marketing agreement.”
And that was the start of the Deerfield connection!
BACK TO OUR STORY: So for those of you in Baltimore, do you need to reach the newsroom, are you looking for a job (Would they hire me for my investigative work?), or interested in inspecting the FCC public file of any of the three stations? All the information is the same, from address to phone numbers, and we already established three stations in one city are not allowed!
“its broadcast ownership rules every four years. …
“This is one of the reasons why my company, Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC (HSH), has sued the FCC. As an African American licensee of two television stations, I believe that by refusing to complete its 2010 quadrennial review, the FCC has unlawfully withheld taking an action required by Congress and the law, and thus is arbitrarily and capriciously retaining burdensome regulations that are no longer in the public interest.”
Williams was angry the FCC “adopted a new rule restricting joint sales agreements (JSAs) between television broadcasters in the same market.”
He claimed, “It effectively slams the door shut on an important gateway to enhancing localism, viewpoint diversity, and opportunities in broadcast television ownership by minorities and underrepresented groups.”
“The FCC, backed by the Obama administration Justice Department, argues that broadcasters have used the shared-service, or “sidecar,” arrangements to circumvent long-standing rules against owning multiple television stations in a single market, allowing them to raise ad prices and weaken market competition.”
Williams and his supporters suggest a more partisan motive: his conservative views.
In fact, it seems every article in HSH’s News section mentions Sinclair or those joint sales agreements designed to get by without abiding by the FCC’s ownership rules!
In other words, he was a great partner for Sinclair since he’s a minority (but without the views of most other minorities) and they’re both making money by using each other!
But I found it eventually gets somewhat better.
Then I went to Wikipedia and read Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting in late 2013, so he got stations in Flint, MI, and Myrtle Beach, SC, but they remain operated by Sinclair. They’re actually his only stations run by Sinclair and remember, at the time, his company was accused of “acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules.”
But that was then.
A year later, he actually, really bought three stations from Sinclair: one in Charleston and two in Alabama.
“Howard Stirk Holdings, run by Armstrong Williams, has agreed to acquire WCIV Charleston for $50,000. Sinclair picked up WCIV, an ABC affiliate, when it acquired Allbritton. While Howard Stirk is acquiring the license, among other assets, it and Sinclair will share some aspects related to the station, and Sinclair will provide services.
“‘We’ll continue some of the wonderful business relationships we have with them,’ said Armstrong Williams, principal at Howard Stirk Holdings.”
WCIV’s services came up because of a tangled web of local marketing agreements. There were ownership conflicts over licenses and other assets of three stations.
Sinclair owned MyNetworkTV affiliate WMMP-36 for years. Then, in 2001, it bought and spun off Fox affiliate WTAT-24 to Glencairn (to become Cunningham) and crafted a local marketing agreement between the two stations. That got Sinclair fined Sinclair $40,000 for illegally controlling a duopoly.
But in 2013, Allbritton sold its entire television group, including ABC affiliate WCIV-4, to Sinclair, which intended to sell WMMP’s license but still control it. Thus, three stations!
Unfortunately for Sinclair, WMMP had that local marketing agreement with WTAT. So Sinclair decided to cut ties from WTAT, keep the more established WCIV and sell WMMP.
But Sinclair told the FCC it couldn’t find a buyer for WMMP, so it would shut down WCIV and keep WMMP because its facilities were better — but move WCIV’s affiliation and all its programming to WMMP. Then, WMMP’s programming including MyNetworkTV would move to a subchannel.
Instead, Sinclair filed to have WCIV’s license sold to HSH to avoid shutting it down. Thus, the low price of $50,000. Then, the two stations swapped licenses, Sinclair let Williams’ WCIV share studio space at WMMP’s facilities and Williams explained he hoped to “continue some of the wonderful business relationships we have with [Sinclair]” through the deal — but operated independently from Sinclair.
“Howard Stirk Holdings has agreed to acquire KVMY, the Las Vegas MyNetworkTV affiliate, for $150,000. Armstrong Williams is the principal at Howard Stirk, which is closely aligned with Sinclair. The price reflects $25,000 for the equity assets, including the FCC license, and $125,000 for the transmission assets.
“According to the following, Howard Stirk ‘acknowledges that it is not buying the Business of KVMY-TV as a going concern.’” (There was a call letter and affiliation change, but Howard Stirk Holdings runs several digital subchannel networks on the signal.)
“In September, Sinclair agreed to acquire NBC affiliate KSNV Las Vegas for $120 million. It also owns CW outlet KVCW.
“Last year, Howard Stirk Holdings acquired the license and other assets to WCIV Charleston from Sinclair for $50,000.”
So they’ve been in business several times, and it may not be over.
Some more about Williams: In 2004, the Bush administration paid him $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law on his nationally syndicated TV show and urge other black journalists to do the same. USA Today reported the campaign was part of an effort to build support among black families and Williams was “to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts” and interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show. Williams said he understood critics could find the arrangement unethical, but “I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in.”
Two years ago, The Washington Post reported Williams settled a sexual harassment and retaliation suit filed by a former salesman at a DC Jos. A. Bank. Court records reportedly showed the complaint alleged Williams had sought sexual favors after befriending and mentoring the other man. That man did get jobs at the Washington Times and then at a Howard Stirk Holdings TV station, but he lost that job.
Bottom line: As of now, Howard Stirk Holdings owns seven stations. Two are in the same Anniston-Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala., market, and Williams’ first two are still run by Sinclair. Now, after other purchases, he’s expecting to buy three more if the Sinclair-Tribune merger happens.
Then there’s Standard Media Group.I hadn’t heard of them either. Its website says Standard General was founded in 2007 and is pretty much an investment advisor, but getting into the broadcasting business. We’ll see how long that lasts. Investment firms are more likely to sell than others with broadcasting in their blood, especially ones who invest in their communities.
Now, if the deal goes through, it’ll fulfill its “goal of swiftly building a substantial broadcast television group with a strong and diverse voice” that includes four state capitals.
The stations are Fox affiliates except where noted: Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, York PA, Greensboro NC (ABC), Richmond, Sinclair’s role in a Wilkes Barre Fox-CW-MyNetworkTV triopoly, and Des Moines.
You may have noticed Meredith Corp. on the list of buyers. TVSpy noted Meredith “has signed a deal to acquire KPLR (CW) from Tribune for $65 million, pairing it with KMOV (CBS) which Meredith has owned since 2013. … Sinclair already owns KDNL (ABC) and will also own KTVI (FOX) in the market.” Great for owners’ synergies. Bad for the number of independent voices in such a big city. Which do you care more about?
Of the other big city stations, Tribune’s legendary WGN-TV9 is supposed to go to WGN TV LLC but that’s really code for Steven Fader, a Maryland auto dealer and business associate to Sinclair chairman David Smith, for a mere $60 million. Sinclair would also have an option to buy WGN-TV outright within eight years and you know it’s counting on the FCC to relax its ownership rules even more within that time frame!
“Even though Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has said a 24-hour national news network is not in the works, his boss (David) Smith seems to like the idea of a few hours of prime time opinion programming to challenge Fox News.”
Fox News is carried in more than 90 million homes, compared to 80 million for WGN America which Sinclair would own if regulators approve, and 55 million for the Tennis Channel which Sinclair already owns.
If your cable or satellite company doesn’t offer either of those last two, then expect it to get a call when any deal with Sinclair is about to expire.
Politico quotes “a person familiar” saying “Smith has been holding meetings with potential future employees, including former Fox News staff members, and laying out a vision for an evening block of opinion and news programming that would compete with Fox’s top-rated lineup.”
So, the discussions are over “a block of at least three hours, but also potentially up to six. Smith is settled, though, on basing his new operation in Washington, D.C.” That’s because the company already owns local station WJLA-7, where it produces some of its national content.
One apparent Sinclair target is former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, who left the network in Sept., 2016, and then had a short stint at MSNBC before signing on with Voice of America. Van Susteren wrote in an email she has spoken with Smith.
“If the Sinclair deal happens, I might talk to him further. … but it would have to be something that would not take me from VOA,” Van Susteren said.
“Other potential hires are former Fox anchor Eric Bolling and reporter James Rosen,” who both left Fox under sexual harassment allegations. Neither admitted whether they met with Smith or other Sinclair executives.
Eric Bolling, via Twitter
James Rosen, via Twitter
Bill O’Reilly, via FoxNews.com
Talks with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly reportedly fell apart.
The slant of a national news block hasn’t been decided. We know where Sinclair stands, politically, but TVNewser notes, “There are already national challengers from the right, including Newsmax TV and OAN.”
And in the nation’s largest market, Tribune’s WPIX-11 is now off the market. It was supposed to go to Cunningham for a mere $15 million. That’s pennies on the dollar, and it would’ve been run by Sinclair. Now, it’ll just go to Sinclair so it’s not on the list.
But what about those TBDs (to be determined)? They are all owned by Tribune: the Fox affiliates in San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma, Cleveland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Denver, and the CW affiliate in Miami/Fort Lauderdale.
And you may have noticed Rupert Murdoch’s Fox conglomerate was not listed as one of the buyers, but that’s sure to change.
Jessell of TVNewsCheck was more direct, saying all Sinclair
“has to do now is wrap up its negotiations with Fox. I don’t know what’s delaying that deal, except that neither Fox nor Sinclair is famous for making concessions. Once Sinclair does that, it can finalize its application and the FCC can complete it long-stalled review.”
Those greedy bastards are going to end up screwing everything up for themselves (which I’d love to see happen), and you’ve only read about half of the plans, so far!
First, Fox actually used to own the Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver stations but sold them to a company called Local TV which sold itself to Tribune. So much for Fox — selling stations and then buying them back later — caring about communities. IMHO, that company can’t make a case for a second chance at ownership.
But now, 21st Century Fox plans to sell off most of its assets like its studio, cable networks and regional sports networks to Disney – keeping just its Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, its FS1/FS2 cable sports channels, adding to its TV stations, and its network, which will focus on live events, especially NFL Football. The new, smaller company is being referred to as New Fox.
That’s the reason Fox has tried to own stations in cities that have NFC conference football teams since it got the rights to most of their away games in 1994 – and even trade or sell other stations for them – despite the fact a regular season of 16 games could mean the home audience would see its team play about 12 games a year on its local Fox station, unless the team makes the playoffs.
Fox even got its hands on Cox’s KTVU in San Francisco (with an NFC team, the 49ers, and the AFC Oakland Raiders across the bay will now be moving to Las Vegas in 2020) and give Cox its own stations in Boston (the New England Patriots are AFC) and Memphis (no NFL team).
What has changed is Fox bought the rights to Thursday Night Football, which should split games between NFC and AFC teams. That means Fox has become more interested in AFC team cities, even though there’s no pattern as to which teams play on Thursdays.
Football teams have moved, but the cities Fox wants are Seattle (especially because it’s NFC), and Cleveland, Denver and Miami (because they have AFC teams). San Diego and St. Louis no longer have teams, so Fox isn’t interested in Tribune’s Fox affiliates in those cities.
Seattle, Cleveland and Denver should be easy. The stations are already Fox affiliates so prime-time programming and the amount of news shouldn’t change. And Fox has leverage because it can threaten to take away its affiliation from those stations, lowering their value, if they’re sold to another company.
Remember what Fox did in Charlotte? It dropped a good affiliate, WCCB-Channel 18, because it wanted to own a station where the NFC Carolina Panthers play. Instead, it bought a nothing station, WJZY-Channel 46, and started it from scratch. And it had to do that a second time when it tried to be too different and less traditional the first time! (And, for disclosure: It got a great new news director who is a former colleague.) Remember, Charlotte pretty much sits on the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Old timers are pretty traditional. Was the move worth it for Fox?
Miami is a different story. Fox has a very good affiliate, WSVN-7, owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television. (Disclosure: I got my start in journalism there.) It gives Fox great coverage of breaking news in South Florida. Several people at Fox News Channel used to work there. The ratings are great. So what’s the problem?
The Miami Dolphins play there, and as an AFC team, they show up on Fox on a few Sundays and may now also be seen on Fox on Thursdays.
But the station that’s available is Tribune’s WSFL-39, a CW affiliate without a news department despite a few morning attempts. WSVN owner Ansin has shown he’ll probably take the station to his grave, with or without any affiliation, so there’s no realistic possibility there.
Should Fox dump WSVN and start from scratch with WSFL? Would it be worth the effort?
Unlike Charlotte, WSVN is a #1 station. And Miami is a very different place. There’s big news regularly and the two main Spanish stations do better than most of the English! People who aren’t bilingual can’t watch all the available stations, which really limits its size, making it actually smaller than the 16th largest market. We’ll have to see who wants WSFL, since a Sinclair-Tribune merger can’t include it due to FCC ownership rules.
One thing I’d say for sure is that WSFL loses its CW affiliation because CBS and Warner Brothers (Time Warner) own the network, and CBS doesn’t only own WFOR-4 (CBS station) and but also WBFS-33 (MyNetworkTV affiliate) and the CW does better.
Staying with this possibility, WSFL could become the new MyNetworkTV affiliate, and MyNetworkTV is owned by Fox.
It’s not so unusual for a network to own stations but not air the network on them.
Let’s take CBS, for example. It owns independents in New York (WLNY-55) and Los Angeles (KCAL-9). In Dallas, WTXA-21 is also independent.
In Miami, WBFS ended up with MyNetworkTV to please Tribune since CBS got the CW in so many other cities when the WB and UPN combined. It’s similar in Boston where WSBK-38 airs MyNetworkTV, but that’s expected to change since Sunbeam’s WLVI-56, which used to be owned by Tribune, airs the CW.
Single CBS-owned stations in Atlanta, Seattle and Tampa air the CW while affiliates owned by other companies air CBS programming.
And in Indianapolis, CBS’ WBXI-47 airs Decades, while the actual CBS affiliation changed from one outside company to another. CBS dumped a strong WISH-8 and went to half of Tribune’s duopoly, independent WTTV-4, over a disagreement with the former Media General.
A last possibility if Fox is determined to buy a Miami station is ABC affiliate WPLG-10. That station, stable under Post-Newsweek (now Graham Media) for decades, was sold to Berkshire Hathaway as its only broadcast property. We’ve talked about synergies (BH, as an “only child,” has none) and know Warren Buffett wants to turn a profit, so we can imagine Fox dumping WSVN for WPLG, but can’t assume ABC will take its affiliation to WSVN. Remember how CBS didn’t do that in 1989? But that’s highly unlikely.
Regarding the UHF discount’s revival, The New York Times wrote, “A few weeks later, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a blockbuster $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media — a deal those new rules made possible.” (Oh, and led to Pai’s investigation. But luckily, Harry Jessell of TVNewsCheckwrote critics of station consolidation say it “now serves only to allow groups to circumvent the intent of Congress, which was to limit groups to 39%” and they’ve “challenged the perpetuation of the UHF discount in court (D.C. Appeals Court), and seem to have made some headway in their oral arguments.”)
“Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.”
An FCC spokesman representing Mr. Pai countered the allegations of favoritism were “baseless,” and
“For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the F.C.C. to update its media ownership regulations. … The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing these rules, it’s not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals.”
However, “Pai said he would factor the potential court decision into the FCC’s decisionmaking.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told Pai the spin-off of WGN-TV Chicago to the owner of a car dealership owned by Sinclair’s executive chair, “stretches the definition of divestiture under the plan to something unrecognizable” and the planned divestitures make a mockery of FCC rules.
Pai denied Rep. Quigley’s request to hold off on a decision on Sinclair until the UHF discount court decision, saying that was a case of clashing hypotheticals — both what the court would do with the discount and what the FCC would do with the proposed merger.
“Sinclair is telling the FCC that its coverage after spinoffs from its merger with Tribune will be just 58.7%. But that’s for regulatory purposes. (In other words, with the revived UHF discount that only counts channels 14 and up as half the audience of the market.) In the real world, where it matters, Sinclair’s national reach will be 66.3% — a full two-thirds of TV homes.”
But he said Sinclair is telling the FCC
“the coverage of the group will be just 58.7% and, with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap. But those percentages are for regulatory consumption, not the real world.”
So there’s a 7.6-point disparity, the difference between 58.7% and 66.3%. How’d that happen? And don’t forget about the part, “with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap.”
Jessell explained Sinclair
“is claiming 58% because it is not counting stations in three big markets — WGN Chicago, KDAF Dallas, KIAH Houston — that it is spinning off to closely affiliated companies. Without those markets and the discount in effect, Sinclair’s reach will be just 37.39%, safely below the 39% cap.”
Plus, with Dallas and Houston (but not Chicago), “Sinclair has put additional distance between itself and Cunningham” but will “have an option to buy the stations should the FCC ever ease the rules to allow it.”
So this is Jessell’s bottom line:
“So, again, for regulatory purposes, Sinclair’s reach will be 58.7% without the discount and 37.39% with it.
“But I don’t think that is reality. Those are not the numbers that Sinclair will be showing national advertisers, MVPDs, vendors and others with which it does business.
“In the real world, Sinclair will have a lot of control over Chicago and some control over Dallas and Houston, and its effective national reach will be 66.3%. (For the record, its reach with the UHF discount will be 41.1%, two points over the cap, but that will not matter because regulators will not be counting the three markets.)”
Then Jessell questioned Fox’s counting, assuming it’ll buy Miami, Cleveland, Sacramento as well as Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City and possibly San Diego.
He calculated Fox reaches 36.8% of homes, but just 24.3% with the UHF discount. If it buys up all seven stations, its reach will grow to 45.9% but, well below the cap at just 30.4% with the discount.
But where will Fox find the money to buy the stations it wants? That’s another story!
Last year, Disney made a $52.4 billion offer to buy most of Fox, including its stake in the European pay TV company Sky.
But The Hollywood Reporter said on Wednesday, “Back in 2004, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts bid $54 billion to acquire The Walt Disney Co.” At the time, Comcast hadn’t bought NBCUniversal but Disney did own ABC. It was a 22 percent more than Disney was worth then, but former CEO Michael Eisner said no anyway.
Now, even though NBCUniversal has performed well, some say Roberts wants revenge by offering the same $52.4 billion as Disney for most of 21st Century Fox.
There could also be a bidding war overseas. Sky had agreed to let Fox, a 39 percent shareholder, buy the portion it doesn’t already own – and that Disney agreed to buy from Fox in December. Comcast could ruin those companies’ plans.
Then, in January, a UK regulator advised the government to block Fox’s bid to buy the remaining 61 percent of Sky because it would give one family – the Murdochs – too much control over media in Britain.
So Murdoch had preferred Disney as the buyer, afraid the Comcast offer came with more regulatory risks. Then, Disney offered to buy Sky News just to help Murdoch buy full control of Sky News’ parent company, the broadcaster Sky. But CNN reported Fox made a new pitch to win approval for Sky by selling Sky News to Disney, and another proposal that would’ve legally separated Sky News from the rest of Sky to ensure its editorial independence.
This all comes along with many mergers and acquisitions across the industry.
In fact, a decision on this may not come until a judge determines whether to let AT&T buy Time Warner. The Justice Department has been fighting against it with an antitrust case. Closing arguments just finished and a decision is expected June 12.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, last week Fox said it’s “considering its options” on Sky and is believed to be prepping a sweetened bid. But Comcast is known for (usually) getting what it wants.
But back to Sinclair, which hasn’t been doing itself any favors.
So much for localism at a company that already owns or operates an astounding 193 TV stations, in 89 cities, covering a huge part of the American population. (You’ve read the different takes on the numbers.)
This is criticism from The New York Times…
from the PBS NewsHour…
from USA Today…
and even Russia Today…
and Al Jazeera English.
But Sinclair fought back against CNN’s criticism (and banned comments from YouTube!):
FTVLive’s Scott Jones showed a memo from Portland, OR – I’m sure one of many around the country – ordering employees not to complain.
“many TV local news stations are focusing more on national politics and have taken a rightward slant over the past year. And that move is stemming from ownership of the stations, not the demands of a local audience.”
The researchers examined 7.5 million transcript segments from 743 local news stations and saw huge differences between other stations, and outlets owned by the nation’s largest local broadcasting chain, Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“The authors found Sinclair stations, on average, carried about a third less local politics coverage and a quarter more national politics … (including) commentaries the stations are forced to run by former Trump official Boris Epshteyn.”
“The ‘slant scores,’ based on repetition of ideologically linked phrases, increased by about one standard deviation after acquisition by Sinclair as compared to other stations in the same markets. … And this programming could spur nationalistic and polarizing movements, ‘be expected to reduce viewers’ knowledge of the activities of local officials’ — and hurt accountability, especially “given the decline of local print media.”
So while everything plays out, from fighting the UHF discount in court, to negotiating spinning off stations, to Fox getting money to buy stations (while keeping its Sinclair affiliates), to counting how long the deal has taken (since May, 2017), to counting how long the steps still to be taken will last, the two companies’ bosses have no public complaints or worries.
Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley:
“After a very robust divestiture process, with strong interest from many parties, we have achieved healthy multiples on the stations we are divesting. …While we continue to believe that we had a strong and supportable rationale for not having to divest stations, we are happy to announce this significant step forward in our plan to create a leading broadcast platform with local focus and national reach. The combined company will continue to advance industry technology, including the Next Generation Broadcast Platform, and to benefit from significant revenue and expense synergies.”
Tribune CEO Peter Kern to employees:
“There is no reason to assume that this change won’t be for the better. … So try to focus, as you have always done, on the business at hand—delivering outstanding local journalism and great content for our audiences and communities, collaborating with your colleagues, and driving results for our customers.”
Enough of big media controlling everything from corporate headquarters! This is what happens when it does. Locals should be in charge of local programming, following the rules of the FCC for using OUR public airwaves!
OK, since you read everything, I’ll give you John Oliver here!
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