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FCC exploits loophole to push massive expansion of pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcasting

Trump's FCC enables the Sinclair-Tribune merger, allowing the conservative media group to reach 72 percent of U.S.


Taylor Link
August 7, 2017 8:01PM (UTC)

Sinclair Media Group, the conservative outlet that pushes the Trump administration's agenda on local news stations, will soon have a nation-wide presence thanks to Donald Trump.

President Trump's handpicked Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, resurrected an old regulatory loophole earlier this year that will allow Sinclair to own a segment of the media landscape that would have previously exceeded federal limits. The regulatory change will empower Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households once it buys Tribune Media's stations, Politico reported on Sunday. Congress had established a nationwide audience cap at 39 percent.

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Politico reported that “the Tribune deal would not have been viable if not for Pai’s intervention.”

Pai, a Republican who became FCC chairman earlier this year, told Congress in a July hearing that he did not revive the regulatory loophole for Sinclair's singular benefit.

“If you look at any of our regulatory actions, they’re not designed to benefit any company or segment of the industry," he said.

The loophole provides a discount to stations with ultra-high-frequency signals, allowing them to count only half their actual audience when determining their national reach. Despite his annoyance with federal regulations, Pai did show support for the loophole in the past.

Sinclair's growth in the Trump era has stirred quite a bit of a controversy. The media group does little to hide its partisan bias. In April, Sinclair hired former White House aide Boris Epshteyn as on-air talent. Epshteyn's pro-Trump segments run unedited on stations across the country.

Politico reported that in the 2016 election cycle, Sinclair and its executives donated nearly $300,000 to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The company and its executives also contributed $120,000 to Democrats.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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