Former FCC chairman sounds the alarm on corporate consolidation and Sinclair's expansion

PBS NewsHour reports that Trump’s FCC “has now made it easier to approve Sinclair’s expansion” into more local news stations

From the October 10 edition of PBS NewsHour:

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WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sinclair’s bid to buy Tribune Media, and thus expand its reach dramatically in the local news market, has drawn plenty of criticism. Sinclair says critics have it wrong. They say it’s about economics, quote, “The proposed merger will advance the public interest by helping to shore up an industry buffeted by well-known economic challenges.” Traditionally, to protect against any one company becoming too dominant, Congress has set certain caps on how many media outlets one corporation can own in a given market, but the FCC recently changed those rules. Under the new leadership of Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the FCC has now made it easier to approve Sinclair’s expansion. Tom Wheeler is the former chair of the FCC. He thinks these new changes are a blow to a free and vibrant press.


TOM WHEELER: The Trump FCC has, in one very short period, moved to change three basic rules that have been in place to protect the diversity of voices and avoid monopolization of the broadcast television market. We have a society in which the flow of information is crucial to a democracy. And when that free flow of information gets choked off by corporate consolidation, we ought to all worry.


BRANGHAM: Eric Lipton of The New York Times discovered meetings and correspondence between Ajit Pai and Sinclair executives that he says raises questions about the company’s influence with the Trump administration.


ERIC LIPTON: He met with the executive officers of Sinclair just a few days before Trump was inaugurated, where they made clear to him that they were looking for the Trump administration to roll back some of these restrictions that were essentially limiting their ability to get bigger. And it was just a matter of a couple of weeks when, all of a sudden, Pai was named chairman and he was actually rolling back the same rules that they had approached him on. And only as a result of rolling back these rules is Sinclair merger going to be able to go through.


LEWIS FRIEDLAND: It’s not just, as Chairman Pai is suggesting, a simple shift in ownership regulations. It’s actually a shift in our entire broadcast ecosystem.


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