FCC carried out threat, Sinclair says

Sep 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Charging that it is being unfairly discriminated against by the Federal Communications Commission, Sinclair Broadcast Group last week asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to force the agency to act on 19 of the company’s long-pending applications to acquire TV stations.
Sinclair told the court that the agency has been sitting on some of the applications for more than three years to punish the company for refusing to sign off on a behind-the-scenes scheme by former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard to promote minority station ownership.
The way the deal worked, according to Sinclair: Mr. Kennard made clear to Sinclair executives during a meeting at the agency that the FCC would sit on applications from broadcasters whose deals failed to serve the chairman’s interests in promoting minority ownership.
“You give him what he wants on this minority issue or he will make you hurt,” Sinclair quoted Roy Stewart, FCC Mass Media Bureau chief and one of Mr. Kennard’s top lieutenants, as saying during a follow-up session.
But Sinclair said it declined to play ball-and has been paying the price ever since in the form of agency stalling on its applications.
“Sinclair can only interpret the agency’s long inaction as punishment for its refusal to comply with the commission’s improper demands,” Sinclair said in its court filing. “The only rational explanation for the commission’s continuing inaction is that the commission is retaliating against Sinclair.”
“Essentially, the applications languish because Sinclair would not submit to the FCC’s extralegal demands,” the company added.
At deadline, neither Mr. Kennard nor Mr. Stewart had returned telephone calls seeking comment.