Tribune Media Spikes Merger Deal With Sinclair, And Sues Its Former Suitor

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s headquaters in Hunt Valley Md

Mike Huckabee, (R-Ark.), and FBN's Maria Bartiromo and Kristina Partsinevelos on Tribune Media terminating its merger agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Tribune Media said Thursday it was ending its proposed merger with the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, the biggest operator of local television in the United States and seen as supportive of President Donald Trump, scuppering a deal that would have turned Sinclair into a national news behemoth.

Sinclair "committed to use its reasonable best efforts to obtain regulatory approval as promptly as possible", Tribune said in a statement, but instead "in an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell, [it] engaged in unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations with [federal regulators]". Sinclair also refused to sell certain stations that would have helped the deal secure regulatory approval, Tribune claims.

Advocacy group Free Press said in an FCC filing in August 2017 that Sinclair forces its stations to 'air pro-Trump propaganda and then seeks favors from the Trump administration'.

Sinclair initially announced plans to buy the media conglomerate fifteen months ago. On Thursday, Kern said that any further delays would hurt his company - so the Tribune board made a decision to spike the deal.

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Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said Wednesday that Sinclair was working with Tribune to save the merger. Tribune is seeking an amount "including but not limited to approximately $1 billion of lost premium to Tribune's stockholders and additional damages in an amount to be proven at trial". Here, the WGN Radio sign appears on the side of Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago.

As we previously reported, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he had "serious concerns" about the purchase, including that Sinclair would divest ownership of some stations but keep control of others.

A survey by the Washington Post in December 2016 showed that the coverage by Sinclair-run news outlets was "disproportionately" favorable to Trump in the election year.

Last month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed "serious concerns" regarding this merger, which would have created one of the largest broadcasting companies in the country and further consolidated the power of Sinclair, which owns almost 200 local stations throughout the US.

It was admonished by media watchdogs in April after dozens of Sinclair news anchors read an identical script expressing concern about "one-sided news stories plaguing the country". "It is especially great news for those consumers served by smaller video providers that have been victimized in the past by outrageous retransmission consent fee hikes and scurrilous signal blackouts by large corporate broadcasters".

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