Gabriel Sherman outlines dangers posed by "very controversial" Sinclair deal to buy Tribune Media

Gabriel Sherman outlines dangers posed by "very controversial" Sinclair deal to buy Tribune Media

Sherman: "There used to be laws in place that prevented the corporate overlords" from "buy[ing] up all the local markets," but "these regulations are being repealed"


From the August 7 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:

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CHRIS HAYES (HOST): A proposed $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media would give Sinclair another 42 stations and the ability to reach 72 percent of U.S. households. Now, that level of dominance of the air waves by a single company is supposed to be outside the bounds of the law. But this spring, President Trump's very pro-business FCC Chairman Ajit Pai invoked a controversial loophole in the law that would allow the deal to go through. And now, despite heated opposition, that deal is widely expected to be approved.

Joining me now, MSNBC media analyst Gabe Sherman, social correspondent for Vanity Fair. So I want to start with just how do people know whether they are watching a Sinclair station? Which is that -- I mean, how do they know?

GABRIEL SHERMAN: The truth is, they don't. I mean, Sinclair owns affiliates all over the country that are affiliated with the big networks, and so if you are watching your local ABC, NBC, or Fox affiliate in a market, you may have no idea that the corporate owner of this network has a political point of view.

Sinclair does not brand its networks, "We are" -- like Fox News would say, "We are a conservative network, we're Fox News," the viewers would know that. Sinclair does not market itself as the owner of these networks.

HAYES: Yeah, and there's also the difference between local affiliates -- I mean, when I grew up in New York, I would think of the network as the association, right? But outside of the major markets, you could be watching ABC in one market that Sinclair owned, and NBC in another, or CBS in another, and they're just owned by Sinclair. Those numbers -- those letters don't really mean anything in terms of the news programming.

SHERMAN: Of course, and that's -- that is really why this is such a sea change, possibly, in the American media landscape where you have an ideologically predisposed company that could push its message behind the curtain of objective news.

I mean, this also -- we should just put it in the context of a generational quest by Republicans to change the media landscape in their favor, going back to 1987 when Ronald Reagan FCC -- Ronald Reagan's FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which allows one point of view, which gave rise to talk radio. We are now seeing the rise, potentially, of right-wing broadcasting in television.

HAYES: Sort of a talk radio-ization of local news.

SHERMAN: Exactly.

HAYES: And how controversial is the approval of the deal itself?

SHERMAN: Well, you talk to people in the media industry, whether or not they are ideologically aligned with Sinclair, and they say this is very controversial. In fact, Rupert Murdoch has now made overtures for Fox to acquire more local stations because they don't want a corporate competitor like Sinclair to be competing with them.

You know, there used to be laws in place that prevented the corporate overlords to buy up all the local markets, because you did not want to have a homogeneous point of view, and now that these regulations are being repealed, there is nothing to say that NBC or Comcast could go and buy up local stations.


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