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Trump criticizes FCC for moving to Sinclair-Tribune Fusion



Tony Romm

Last week, FCC leader Ajit Pai – a Republican appointed by Trump to lead the telecoms agency – found Sinclair and Tribune "Lack of openness" demonstrated by trying to circumvent US government restrictions on media management by selling key locations in cities like Chicago to Sinclair allies. The agency subsequently approved an order that would send the merger to a judge of administrative law.

Trump compared the proposed link with Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal in 2011, a completely different business – one that combined a cable giants and a content-packed powerhouse – that the FCC had approved. Trump has previously thwarted this merger on the campaign path.

A Pai spokesman did not immediately respond to an email requesting a comment. The deal was not officially blocked. A Sinclair spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel responded in a quick tweet to Trump's comments: "Disagree."

Trump's tweet predicts a lawsuit over Sinclair's merger, while possibly criticizing his government's other political efforts to major business transactions check. Earlier, the president had targeted and criticized AT & T's offer to buy Time Warner months before the Department of Justice denounced the connection on the grounds that it would harm consumers and competitors.

Sinclair announced its bid to purchase Tribune in May 2017, spurred on by the arrival of Trump at the White House and Pai at the FCC, who quickly adopted relaxed regulations on the telecom industry – and the companies that own broadcasters.

However, some of Pai's critics, including Democrats in Congress, soon questioned the kind of chairman's relationship with the conservative broadcasting giant. Even before the government began reviewing the deal, Sinclair boasted about the Trump administration: Sinclair made a deal with Trump, then a candidate, for access to him in exchange for better media coverage, Politico reported in 2016 and the conservative network is currently busy Boris Epshteyn, who had served Trump in the White House. The Inspector General of the FCC later opened an investigation into the matter.

For the deal, Sinclair had made an ambitious proposal: a new conservative monster that could reach 233 stations in 108 markets, far more than what is currently allowed under federal law. To cope with government restrictions on media ownership, Sinclair offered to divest some stations, including WGN in Chicago and others in Houston and Chicago.

But Pais FCC – after more than a year investigating the proposed merger – found some Sinclair's proposals suspicious given the fact that they intended to sell broadcasters like WGN to people who already had a relationship with the broadcaster. Last week, the Authority asked a magistrate to review "whether Sinclair has misrepresented his claims and / or lacked candor in his claims".

Brian Fung contributed to this report.


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