The proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Co. has become a focus on Capitol Hill, where a number of House Democrats are calling for a hearing on the deal.
“Minority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Mike Doyle (Pa.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.) — called for the acquisition to be scrutinized by the panel, especially in the wake of a recent Federal Communications Commission vote,” The Hill reports.
In a letter sent to Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs the subcommittee on technology, the lawmakers wrote: “This $3.9 billion deal would create the largest television broadcast company in the country, and as such, raises important questions about the future of our country’s media that must be examined by Congress.”
The Hill adds: “Democrats have criticized a recent move by the FCC to reinstate a media ownership rule that they believe directly paved the way for the Sinclair-Tribune deal. The rule, called a ‘UHF discount,’ lets major broadcasters count certain local television stations at a discount towards the national media ownership cap.”
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote: “The Republican FCC majority reinstated the UHF discount despite a previous finding that it was obsolete in the digital era. Its revival only serves as a loophole in the media ownership rules that opens the door to a wave of broadcast consolidation, as evidenced by this transaction.”
The report notes that a coalition of public interest groups has asked a federal court to block the UHF discount from going into effect.