“Fake news” is President Trump’s favorite whipping boy, but a report this morning on Axios.com documents how his administration’s policies are bolstering a few big media companies and undermining their smaller competitors.
The piece suggests that Trump’s appointees at the Federal Communications Commission are working on two fronts with implications for the free flow of news and information that is vital to a successful democracy.
First, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is leading a charge to undo regulations that block internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from controlling how information flows through their networks to internet users. Meanwhile, Pai and his colleagues also appear to be greasing the skids for Sinclair Broadcasting’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting, authors David McCabe and Sara Fischer note.
The result could be the creation of “fast” and “slow” lanes on the internet, with big telecom companies able to frustrate, cut off, or impose extra fees for public access to websites they don’t like, while Trump-friendly Sinclair dominates local television broadcasting in much of the country.
Sinclair is notorious for distributing “must run” news and feature stories from its Baltimore headquarters to stations across the country. The company reportedly cut a deal with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, last year to provide sympathetic coverage to the Trump campaign; meanwhile, independent reviews have concluded that Sinclair stations gave Trump a disproportionate amount of favorable or neutral attention.
Now Sinclair is trying to buy 42 television stations, including outlets in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, from Tribune; the takeover would give Sinclair more than 200 stations with nearly 600 channels and a presence in nearly three-fourths of American households, far more than the FCC’s current 39 percent limit. Sinclair already is the nation’s largest broadcaster.
"No one company should have such power over the news and information that citizens must have to successfully practice the art of self-government,” former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now serving as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, observed last summer. “And that doesn't even get into the vices of this particular company."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Media and Democracy