Sinclair announces deal to buy Tribune for $3.9B

Sinclair announces deal to buy Tribune for $3.9B
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Sinclair Broadcast Group announced on Monday that it had reached an agreement to purchase the Tribune Media Company for $3.9 billion.

The deal, which was first reported by Reuters ahead of the announcement, comes just weeks after the Federal Communications Commission eased restrictions on media ownership limits.

“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said in a statement. “The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets.”

Sinclair is a conservative-leaning broadcasting company that is one of the largest owners of local television stations in the country.

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In December, Politico reported that Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had bragged to a group of business leaders that the Trump campaign had arranged a deal to provide the company with better access, and in exchange Sinclair would broadcast interviews with the then-candidate without commentary.

Sinclair said that the same arrangement was offered to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn't competing for 'same pool of voters' Anti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey MORE’s campaign, which turned it down.

Last month, the company hired former Trump spokesman Boris Epshteyn as a political analyst.

The FCC voted at its April meeting to reinstate what’s known as the ultra-high frequency discount, which makes certain local stations count less toward the national media ownership limit imposed on major broadcasting companies.

The move was opposed by most Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who argued in a letter with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) that the new rule would threaten independent media voices. The two Democrats cited rumors at the time of an impending Sinclair-Tribune deal.

Free Press CEO Aaron Craig called the deal a “scandal.”

“Sure looks like a quid pro quo: friendly coverage and full employment for ex-Trump mouthpieces in exchange for a green light to get as big as Sinclair wants,” Craig said in a statement Monday. 

“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 Sinclair’s headquarters. This deal would have been DOA in any other administration, but the Trump FCC isn’t just approving it; they’re practically arranging it.” 

Despite the discount, the deal may still result in Sinclair exceeding the national limit of serving 39 percent of households nationwide. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning a push to raise that cap, but it is unclear whether the regulator will make a move before the deal goes through.