Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Sinclair), a publicly-traded American telecoms conglomerate, has accepted to pay a $48 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a settlement for a probe into the company’s abandoned deal to buy an American broadcasting company, Tribune Media Co. (Tribune). The telecom company expressed that it was fine with the FCC’s largest fine ever imposed on the civil body for resolving the issue.
Sinclair Agrees to Abide by Regulators
On Wednesday, May 6, 2020, Sinclair’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chris Ripley said in a statement that the company was pleased with the resolution, Ripley, who is also the company’s president, asserted, “Sinclair is committed to continuing to interact constructively with all of its regulators to ensure full compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
In June 2019, the FCC announced an investigation into whether Sinclair engaged in misrepresentations or a lack of candor in the $3.9 billion Tribune deal or met its obligations to negotiate retransmission consent agreements in good faith and its failure to identify the sponsor of the content. After the apprehension that the telecoms company was found guilty of the case, the FCC said that the civil penalty would resolve FCC investigations.
Earlier in 2017, the FCC was imposing fine on Sinclair around $13.38 million after it failed to properly disclose about a paid programming that aired on local TV stations was sponsored by a cancer institute. The probe was also resolved with a settlement. On Wednesday, the FCC said that Sinclair, the second-largest television station operator in the US, has agreed to “abide by a strict compliance plan.”
Political Drama over Tribune Deal
In August 2018, Tribune had terminated the sale of 42 TV stations in 33 markets to Sinclair, which owns or operates 191 stations, and a month earlier, the FCC questioned Sinclair’s position over the planned sale of some stations suggesting that Sinclair would effectively retain control over them. FCC’s Chairman, Ajit Pai stated, “Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable.”
Referring to the huge penalty imposed on a civil body, Pai emphasized, “Today’s penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair/Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licensees seeking commission approval of a transaction in the future.” However, he rejected suggestions the FCC revoke Sinclair’s licenses.
Meanwhile, the collapse of the deal, which was backed by US President Donald Trump, potentially ended Sinclair’s hopes for leading a national conservative-leaning TV powerhouse that could have competed with the rivaled Fox Corp’s Fox News.
Trump, however, in 2018 criticized the Republican-led FCC for not approving the Tribune deal, by saying on Twitter it “would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.” Meanwhile, Democrats accused Sinclair of using news coverage in favor of Republicans.
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