On Monday Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said he had “serious concerns” about Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans to acquire Tribune Media. The four-person commission today voted unanimously to send the $3.9 billion acquisition proposal to an administrative judge to decide its merits.
Maryland-based Sinclair specializes in owning and managing local broadcast news affiliates. The company’s management have been outspoken in their support of Donald Trump and his right-wing agenda, and have sought to use their network to spread its messages. In one instance earlier this year, the company forced local news anchors to issue a warning about mainstream media spreading fake news.
The acquisition of Tribune Media would give Sinclair even more control of local news markets. The combined assets of the companies would reach 7 in 10 U.S. households, including those in major markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Sinclair previously said it would sell 23 of its TV stations to satisfy government rules, but because of loopholes and communications law nuances, some of the stations would remain effectively under the control of Sinclair.
In an amendment to its plan today, Sinclair said it would sell stations in Dallas and Houston, in the hopes of giving its Tribune deal a better chance with regulators. It also promised that Tribune’s WGN in Chicago would be sold outright to Sinclair to make the station’s ownership more transparent.
Ultimately, however, the company’s amended proposal appeared to have little impact on the FCC’s decision.