It’s always good to be remembered, and hopefully being your last new year’s message of the year will keep some of my thoughts on your minds. (I’d be embarrassed to post something like this more than a week late, even by a few minutes!)
Let me start with the most important: that I became an uncle again, just before the new year. Jennifer and Daniel had a beautiful baby girl, Ayelet. She joins Betzalel, Noam and Tali. I’m due for a visit, and can’t wait!
If there’s one good thing about life, it’s that we can usually make fresh starts. Sometimes it’s harder and sometimes it’s not complete, but it’s possible for everybody to some degree. Just start by taking inventory, and figuring out what’s lacking and what’s extra.
In that sense, I completed a life detour by finishing the five courses I needed to earn the Google IT Support Specialist certificate. While I’m on the right track, I started freelancing on a new job that involves my old skills (always with a lot to learn), and hope to become fulltime – which will likely mean working on IT issues there as needed. Details to come. My Twitter feed on this site would be a good place to see it first.
Another big victory for me is all of you, reading this blog and following what I write. It was just Dec. 6 – 32 days ago – this blog hit 20,000 views. Believe me, I don’t visit unless there’s a reason, and that’s usually commenting to update a post. It’s the reason I urge you to comment. You may have come up with a thought I didn’t, and nobody else either, so you’d be adding to the discussion. You’re welcome to say nice things or maybe even criticize me (I’ve never refused to publish anything). But perhaps most importantly is you’ll get an email there’s an update on a topic you care about.
Right now, Monday night, the log says there have been 21,169 hits, and I’ve only published two posts since the 20,000 mark, 32 days ago. So thank you.
On the other hand, this email from Amazon arrived Saturday afternoon:
“We are writing to notify you that your Associates Program application has been rejected and you will no longer have access to Associates Central.
This action was taken because we have not yet received qualified sales activities from your account. As a reminder, Accounts that have not referred three qualified sales within in 180-days of sign-up are automatically rejected.”
Notice how I couldn’t have included that if I’d posted this when I originally wanted!
I’ve made no secret I haven’t made a cent off the blog and won’t ask you pay, make donations, etc., even though it’s costing me money. I don’t like how other sites do that, and also Facebook.
Furthermore, I promised to avoid a certain topic while I’m doing this outside freelance work, and if I become full-time, new thoughts on the topic will end permanently.
So without further ado, let me tie up some loose ends on some posts I’ve written about, pretty much linking to new articles that aren’t in the blog. I’m going to do it by category – Media, Middle East and Religion, and Other – not in any particular order in each category.
How many companies in the pay-TV industry have been raising their prices recently? Five: DirecTV, U-verse, Comcast, Charter and the latest, Dish. That’s despite the industry losing customers over the past few years, largely because of rising prices. https://tvanswerman.com/2018/12/23/dish-becomes-5th-pay-tv-op-to-raise-prices-for-2019/ Yes, the cost of programming is going up but I think the biggest culprits are local TV stations asking for more and more of that retransmission compensation, and regional sports networks. I suggest considering cord-cutting. And since I’m taking the time to write, can someone please tell me how to do it while keeping the news channels and a few others (plus, fast internet).
Two years of NFL ratings declines are over. This season, the National Football League improved its overall deliveries by five percent. In fact, 34 of the top 50 most-watched broadcasts were NFL games, and so were 61 of the top 100. Three of Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts made the top 100 after Fox had nothing on Thursdays before this season. Maybe overpaying was the right choice. And NBC’s strong schedule of highly competitive games (the Sunday night average margin of victory was just 9.6 points per game, down from 12.9 in 2017) nearly closed the gap with Fox and CBS. They spend more, airing multiple games on Sundays to a team’s home city. https://adage.com/article/media/top-50-u-s-broadcasts-2018/316102/
The Olympics is taking the year off. So are political ads in most places. But there’s good news, considering vehicle ads are among the most popular on TV. Automakers reported an increase of 0.3 percent over a year ago to 17.27 million vehicles. That’s despite rising interest rates, a volatile stock market, and rising car and truck prices. “If there are lots of jobs and people are getting bigger paychecks, they will buy more.” So no worries about the broadcast business. Don’t let your boss tell you they’re broke. Ask for a raise! https://tvnewscheck.com/article/227839/us-new-vehicle-sales-slightly-17-27m/
Columnist Harry A. Jessell making predictions, including whether Nexstar will be able to close on its merger with Tribune by the end of the third quarter as it said when it announced the merger on Dec. 3: “The regulatory approval process is already a month behind schedule. On the day of the announcement, Nexstar said that the transfer application would be submitted to the FCC the next day and that the ‘comprehensive divestiture plan’ needed for complying with the FCC’s local ownership rules would soon follow. We’re still waiting.” https://tvnewscheck.com/article/227690/whats-store-19-jessells-8-ball-knows/
The number of gimmicks to get you to watch local TV news is growing, thanks to a viewer engagement platform I’m not going to help by naming. Wednesday mornings at 10 in Detroit, viewers choose the Big Story. The boss explained it’s
“not necessarily the lead story or the breaking story, but it’s the story we put more resources into, to dig deep into that story.”
Poor Andy Cohen! (No relation.) I insulted a longtime friend by saying Cohen doesn’t matter to me. Now, in a story you wouldn’t have seen here if I got this blog out on time, the Times Square Alliance is fighting his suggestion they singled him out when they made him take down his umbrella during his New Year’s Eve CNN broadcast. Cohen furiously ranted live on the air about being forced to take it down during a downpour. (Slavery is over. How much did he make?) According to the Alliance,
“It has been our policy that umbrellas are not permitted on the media riser so as to not interfere with media colleagues’ sightlines. There were over 100 credentialed members of the media and 15 live broadcast camera spots on the media riser this year.”
A new round of Facebook data controversies incensed lawmakers and added to the social network’s mounting problems. “Mark Zuckerberg testified that Facebook doesn’t sell users’ data,” according to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “But the company does make deals to hand out consumers’ data for its own financial benefit, including by allowing companies to snoop, or even delete, users’ private messages.” Pallone vowed further action. We’ll see if Democrats and Republicans agree enough to pass a comprehensive data privacy bill. https://thehill.com/policy/technology/422569-lawmakers-grow-impatient-with-facebook
The Justice Department reportedly decided not to ramp up an investigation into Comcast buying NBCUniversal, seven years ago. That’s even though President Trump had doubled-down on his criticism of the merger as anti-competitive. In a consent decree, Comcast agreed not to withhold NBC programming from rival cable companies or video streaming services, but that expired in September. The DOJ had said it was still monitoring Comcast a month earlier, in August. https://nypost.com/2018/12/27/justice-department-backs-off-comcast-nbcuniversal-merger-probe/
I’ve written about the FCC loosening rules and one that’s still around really bothers me when broken. So I emailed this letter to the Media Bureau, Policy Division, EEO Branch, where I’m sure somebody will read it when the government shutdown ends:
In early January, Scripps bought three TV stations as part of Gray Television’s acquisition of Raycom.
1. WTXL, Tallahassee FL: Immediately named Matt Brown vice president and general manager.
2. KXXV & KRHD, Waco TX: Immediately named Adam Chase vice president and general manager.
3. WFTS, Tampa FL: Named Sarah Moore news director (Matt Brown’s old job) the very next day!
Your rules on hiring practices are below, along with the source.
For instances 1 and 2 above, were there already vice president and general managers in place who did not resign? How long can a TV station go without a vice president and general manager? Don’t they ever take vacations? Could another department head (or more) temporarily taken on the responsibilities, especially in such a large ownership group with plenty of managers overseeing the TV stations? Could Scripps, at a minimum, have waited to hire until after fulfilling your requirements?
For instance 3, news departments go without news directors for long amounts of time, trying out assistant news directors to save money. Again, could Scripps, at a minimum, have waited to hire until after fulfilling your requirements? (I think this one is the easiest YES.)
I don’t think any of the above qualify as “demanding or special circumstances” (especially #3) since sales happen all the time and Scripps was expecting these to happen. It wasn’t as if there was a disaster and the stations needed immediate leadership, or someone suddenly died and employees had to work while being comforted.
I see your rules of immediately hiring without posting being broken all the time and think it should stop. It’s all about who knows who, which defeats the purpose of EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity). Scripps excluded dozens of qualified and worthy men and women of all backgrounds from applying.
I hope you severely punish these stations, and others that do this in the future, because they will keep doing so until you stop them.
FCC rule requirements (https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/eeo-rules-and-policies-radio-and-broadcast-and-non-broadcast-tv)
The FCC’s EEO rules require broadcasters and MVPDs subject to the recruitment requirements to:
§ widely distribute information concerning each full-time (30 hours or more) job vacancy, except for vacancies that need to be filled in demanding or special circumstances;
§ provide notice of each full-time job vacancy to recruitment organizations that request notice
The government shutdown is having an impact on meteorologists. Meteorologist Brittney Merlot at KQDS in Duluth said, “As a meteorologist, an important reading we need this time of year is the water temperature. It helps us determine lake effect snow and also monitor lake ice formation.” But they’re not getting it from the Coast Guard. https://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2019/1/4/government-shutdown-hurts-meteorologists
National Security Advisor John Bolton met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, last night, partly to signal the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria wouldn’t affect America’s support for the Jewish State. “I think in fact, under your leadership, Mr. Prime Minister – you and President Trump – we now have the best U.S.-Israel relationship in our history,” Bolton said. https://worldisraelnews.com/netanyahu-bolton-meeting-reaffirms-us-commitment-to-israel/
All the best to you in 2019, or at least what’s left of it!
If you appreciate what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like this, this and this. I just became certified as an IT Support Specialist and am also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen
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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I DECIDED TO STAY WITH COMCAST. Yes, you read correctly. I made the decision yesterday after coming ‘thisclose’ to switching to Verizon.
This is the reason and in no way do I take back anything I said previously (below) about Comcast. I simply used my head instead of my heart, and took the better deal.
Everyone’s decision is different – I’ll share my parents’ – but I live in a Philadelphia high-rise. Comcast is by far the easiest company to use in my building. I’ve asked the management to ask the board to look into competition and a group deal. (More on the group deal in just a moment.) Fios isn’t offered here and satellite dishes have been ruled legal, but I face the north side and am closer to the bottom of the building than the top.
I was able to overcome both of those obstacles back in South Beach and loved having DirecTV. Then at Riverwood, also in Miami, the condo management had negotiated deals with Comcast for basic cable that were part of our maintenance fees. Anybody could pay more for extras. I wish we had a similar system here for hundreds of units (twice the number there) that would also include basic internet.
I really looked into Verizon, which I use for my cell phone, and had a nice online chat about a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Buying the device would clear up the need for the internet – however, I went to the store and they were honest. The device would use data. The amount of data would depend on how much I use it, and I have the perfect amount for right now. I come very close to the limit but don’t exceed it. On the chat, I was told I could pay $20 more every month for unlimited data, but found out that wasn’t true when they checked at the store. Instead, they’d have to start the bill from scratch and I’d pay $40 more every month. Also, the speed would be much less than Comcast’s offer.
Comcast started as usual, a pain in the ass.
You’ll remember, or see just below, on Thursday, I threatened them and told them to look at this blog post that the world can see.
On Friday, I tried to call but they had their outage. After not getting through twice, I talked to a computer that told me my wait should be less than five minutes. I hung up after listening to oldies for an hour-and-a-half.
I would not do frustrating work with Comcast over the weekend, knowing my point was made on the blog, out there and even updated from the original.
Monday, we had a l-o-n-g series of Twitter direct messages.
They asked for my name and phone number. Then they told me the phone number “provided pulls up more than one account” and asked for my address. I gave it to them and told them to lose the two former addresses where I used Comcast, because those accounts have been closed for so long.
I’d been told specifically to ask for the loyalty team but got the social media corporate team. I insisted they read the blog because “I’m not repeating anything. I wasted enough time chatting & waiting to talk to Comcast people,” and I was in a rush. They didn’t know part of that rush was to get to the Verizon store, so they’d better be quick.
After a little more back-and-forth, and mentioning a similar increase for my parents, I was at the bookstore.
This is what Comcast offered:
Note the price went down by $20 from the original, but they didn’t give an exact total including taxes and fees. Eventually they did, and it was just $30 more than I was paying, better internet speed, and a DVR that would let me stream programming anywhere (once I learn how that works because I may have had the DVR before and never used it). I haven’t noticed any change in channels.
But I was unfamiliar with the approval form and away from home, using only my phone.
Eventually, I made it from the bookstore to the Verizon store and as I explained, they were honest that they couldn’t offer a better deal without Fios.
I have a digital antenna and can see all the local stations and subchannels for free.
I could’ve bought two more digital antennas since I have three TVs, but would’ve still needed the internet, as I explained. I already had a device that’s supposed to act as a mobile DVR that comes with a place to insert Roku or anything else.
But it’s also summer, when the networks are into reruns and a lot of nonsense, so I figured it would be less expensive and easier to stick with cable instead of making multiple changes I couldn’t be sure about. Potentially losing the news channels didn’t play much of a role, since I can read and stream the news, and I’m not planning on getting back into what so much TV “journalism” has become.
So that’s my story. Yesterday, Comcast ended up being very, very nice – and the better deal.
As for my parents in Florida, they got a similar Comcast increase for cable and the internet, but somehow their new bill was $100 more than mine!
I suggested since they have AT&T for their home phone (but are on my Verizon cell phone plan), they should consider switching to AT&T for the internet, which I had in Florida, and AT&T-owned DirecTV, which I really liked many years back when it was under different ownership.
That would make three different AT&T products for them and probably cost a lot less money. I hope they’ll be tough with Comcast and lucky with AT&T.
ORIGINAL FROM THURSDAY:
I don’t know how many of you still have cable TV or satellite these days. It seems everyone is a cord-cutter.
Looks like I’m about to join the crowd, and would appreciate your experiences and suggestions.
I have basic cable and internet. Nothing special. The fees have been going up, little by little for the past year.
Last month, I paid $131.54. This month’s bill came today and Comcast suddenly wants $185.09!
Mark my words: That will not continue. In fact, if I pay that one time, all the regulators will hear from me. Has anybody ever seen me bluff?
You’ll understand a lot more when you read the “chat” Glenjoe and I spent an hour preparing for you to read!
Then, my plan was that when I was done publishing, I’d call the Comcast Loyalty Team. That way, they could read this, instead of me having to explain everything all over again, so I can eat. But I had to be done by 9! Didn’t happen. Not even close. So tomorrow.
And why should I have to call? Doesn’t Comcast offer phone service?
Plus, how will they react after this story titled “Consumer Reports’ ‘What the Fee’ campaign targets Comcast for its TV, sports fees” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, posted online yesterday afternoon?
Keep reading. This is the transcript. Enjoy the back-and-forth more than I did!
Meanwhile, I’m glad I got a phone number because these two similar promotions of many I’ve gotten and saved over the past few months have different phone numbers. I wonder if they offer different prices.
Then, of course, is the point of the Inky article: the fees. Yes, there are taxes and franchise fees, but I’m going to focus on cable and satellite companies paying retransmission fees to the broadcast TV stations they carry because they’re more my expertise. Those are the stations we could get for free by antenna, if we chose to.
This is that part of my bill Philadelphia customers get.
Notice Comcast charges me $7.50 every month for TV stations and $6.75 as a regional sports fee.
Don’t forget we’re talking about the conglomerate Comcast. They own a lot.
First, I’m very, very angry those broadcast TV fees don’t go directly to the area TV stations for what was negotiated (forced on Comcast so we, the customers, pay for something we could get for free).
Second, Comcast owns WCAU-NBC 10 and WWSI-Telemundo 62 here in Philadelphia. I’d also be very, very angry if those broadcast TV fees are not in line with those TV stations’ ratings. NBC 10 may be a very distant second place to WPVI-6 ABC, so I’d think NBC 10 should get a very distant second amount, compared to 6 ABC. Isn’t that similar to the cost advertisers pay, but advertisers pay by program? And NBC 10 could promote Telemundo 62 all it wants but that doesn’t mean many people watch. Its retransmission fee should be relatively tiny. I’d love to know how much each station makes. They are federally licensed and regulated, so I suppose it’s possible.
One thing is for sure and that’s that Comcast-owned TV stations had better not be making more money than they deserve, compared to the competition. Otherwise, it may be a violation of a condition it agreed to when it bought NBC Universal.
And as far as the regional sports fee goes, is there any other than NBC Sports Philadelphia, formerly Comcast SportsNet? Yes, they pay to show Phillies games, which used to be free, over the air, before retransmission fees had been invented. Apparently that one cable station I hardly ever watch doesn’t get the whole pot of $6.75!
I know because on our bills, and between pages 3 and 4 of the transcript, it says both regional sports and broadcast TV fees only “recovers a portion” of the costs. So what happens to the rest? All customers should be angry!
(And speaking of sports, the NFL Network is not regional, so the April article in the Inky, “Comcast bumps NFL Network up a tier, adding $10 for the network,” is a separate fee for subscribers who want that particular channel.)
Anyway, it’s now well after 10pm. I spent that last 30 minutes with a computer that keeps freezing. I’m hungry, but I can’t wait to talk to somebody in Comcast’s Loyalty Team tomorrow. I’ll have that lucky person read this first.
On the other hand, your best advice on cutting the cord would be very appreciated below in the comments section.
Thanks to you, and of course Philadelphia-based Comcast. Yes, it’s a hometown company!
And please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.
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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