Conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group said today it will pay $3.9 billion to buy Tribune Media Company and its 42 local TV stations, beating out 21st Century Fox to land the deal.
Sinclair already has 173 local news stations. The combined operations of the two companies will create the largest-single group of local TV stations. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval, but the Trump administration’s FCC has signaled its openness to media consolidation.
This is another victory for conservatives in the battle for the hearts and minds of average Americans – especially those vulnerable to the type of “bumper-sticker” philosophies promoted by President Trump and the GOP.
The deal calls for Sinclair to acquire 100 percent of Tribune Media for $43.50 a share. Sinclair also will assume about $2.7 billion in Tribune Media debt, according to the companies.
Tribune Media owns local TV stations across the country, including WGN in Chicago, WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and WDCW in Washington. It also has minority stakes in Food Network and CareerBuilder.
Based in Hunt Valley, Md., north of Baltimore, Sinclair mostly owns stations in smaller markets, such as WUTV in Buffalo and WVTV in Milwaukee. One of its largest stations is WJLA in Washington.
“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” Chris Ripley, chief executive of Sinclair, said in a news release.
However, If Sinclair’s past is any indicator, they may also promote their conservative political leanings.
The company has made their political agenda clear on the air:
As far back as 2004, the company ordered its stations to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry right before the election.
For years, Sinclair’s newscasts wrapped up with one-minute editorials hosted by conservative commentator Mark Hyman.
Company executives have contributed thousands to the Republican National Committee and conservative candidates, even forming a political-action group more than a decade ago to donate to conservative campaigns.
Craig Aaron, the head of Free Press, an anti-consolidation nonprofit, said his group has objections to the deal.
“It’s a scandal,” Aaron said. “Trump-favoring mega-chain gets rules changed — and expects others to be erased — so it can put its cookie-cutter newscasts in nearly 70 percent of local markets across the country.”
Aaron added: “I feel terrible for the local journalists who will be forced to set aside their news judgment to air Trump administration talking points and reactionary commentaries from headquarters. This deal would have been DOA in any other admin, but the Trump FCC isn’t just approving it; they’re practically arranging it.”