Common Cause Responds to FCC Enforcement Against Sinclair

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission announced a $48 million civil penalty against Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the second largest media conglomerate in the nation. The fine is part of a consent decree closing three investigations including one where the FCC questioned whether Sinclair engaged in misrepresentation and a lack of candor in its attempt to acquire Tribune Media Company.

Statement of Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Adviser and Former FCC Commissioner

“We commend the FCC for taking enforcement action against Sinclair. But the penalty fine amounts to a slap on the wrist for a conglomerate that has a history of bending the FCC’s rules and pursuing acquisition strategies that make a mockery of the broadcaster ownership limits. Misrepresentation and lack of candor are serious allegations for any broadcaster let alone one that has continued to push the constraints of ownership structures placed by the Commission. These ownership limits are in place for a reason – to prevent one entity from owning too much media in any given market. The airwaves belong to the public and must reflect the diversity of voices in our democracy.

“A consent decree is insufficient to resolve allegations over Sinclair’s misrepresentation and lack of candor – issues that get to the heart of whether the broadcaster is fit to hold licenses. The FCC should have held a full hearing to examine these allegations rather than issuing a consent decree behind the scenes. Closing the investigation on Sinclair should not close the door on scrutinizing a company whose license renewal applications will soon come up for FCC review. The public should have full opportunity to weigh in on these renewal applications, and the Commission must keep a watchful eye that Sinclair does not violate any of its rules.”