Broadcast giant forms PAC

Broadcast industry giant Sinclair Broadcasting Group is forming a PAC, according to paperwork recently filed with Federal Election Commission.

Sinclair Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy Rebecca Hanson, the company will use the PAC as it works on issues in front of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“There are a lot of challenges facing our industry, and we believe that engaging in the process through the PAC is one of a variety of ways to further our goals,” Hanson said.

On its website, Sinclair boasts being "one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country today," including FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates.

At the FCC, broadcasters are watching as the agency prepares for a 2015 airwave auction, which will involve buying airwaves back from broadcasters and selling them to spectrum-hungry wireless companies looking to boost their cellphone networks.

“We want to make sure we’re treated fairly in the auction,” Hanson said.

Earlier this year, the FCC upset broadcast companies by passing a rule that prohibits broadcast stations from sharing advertising sales resources.

Under the new rules, if stations share more than 15 percent of advertising sales resources, they are considered to be owned by the same company, and no one company can own more than one of the top four broadcast stations in any local market.

As the FCC moves ahead with rules affecting broadcasters, Congress is eyeing changes to the way broadcasters negotiate with cable and satellite companies.

The current “retransmission consent” negotiation system allows broadcasters to black out their television and online content for subscribers of a cable or satellite company if that company fails to meet the broadcasters demands for payment.

While broadcasters say it allows for fair compensation, critics — including cable and satellite companies — say it gives broadcasters too much leverage in the negotiation process.

Though some Democrats hoped to address this system as Congress reauthorizes a bill that governs parts of the satellite video market this year, many expect bigger video market reforms to be addressed through a House effort to make sweeping reforms to communications law.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced last year that it would be overhauling the Communications Act — which governs the FCC and the industries it regulates and was last updated by the Telecommunications Act in 1996 — and the Republican leadership on that committee has said that effort would be the appropriate venue to review the retransmission consent system.

Hanson said the PAC does not yet have plans to get involved in specific races or support specific candidates.

“We’re still in the process of forming it internally,” she said.