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Pallone & Doyle Urge FCC to Investigate Reports that Sinclair Illegally Took Control of Tribune’s Advertising Activities

Aug 7, 2018
Press Release
“Coordination of this type may constitute a violation of the Communications Act as well as Antitrust Law”

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today urging the Commission to investigate reports that Sinclair Broadcasting illegally exercised control over the advertising activities of Tribune Media Company.

In their letter, the Committee Democrats asked the FCC to investigate whether Sinclair violated the Communications Act, including Section 310(d), which prohibits the de facto transfer or control of a broadcast television license without FCC’s consent.

“An FCC investigation is warranted in light of recent reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating whether the sales teams of Sinclair and Tribune were improperly coordinating regarding their advertising sales performance, resulting in higher rates,” Pallone and Doyle wrote.  “Moreover, Sinclair has a history of improperly exercising de facto control over stations it did not own, further supporting the need for review.”

The Democrats also requested that if either the FCC or DOJ find that Sinclair or Tribune engaged in illegal activity during the pending merger that the FCC should take such findings into consideration when reevaluating the companies’ broadcast licenses. 

Text of the letter below:  

 

August 7, 2018

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

Recent press reports raise questions as to whether Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Sinclair) illegally exercised control over the advertising activities of Tribune Media Company (Tribune).   Coordination of this type may constitute a violation of the Communications Act  as well as Antitrust Law.

We write to urge you to investigate whether Sinclair violated Section 310(d) or other provisions of the Communications Act.   Section 310(d) prohibits the de facto transfer or control of a broadcast television license without Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consent.   An FCC investigation is warranted in light of recent reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating whether the sales teams of Sinclair and Tribune were improperly coordinating regarding their advertising sales performance, resulting in higher rates.   Moreover, Sinclair has a history of improperly exercising de facto control over stations it did not own, further supporting the need for review.

This investigation should be conducted separate and apart from the questions recently designated for a hearing by the Commission as they are distinct issues and legal questions.   Additionally, should the DOJ or FCC find that either Sinclair or Tribune engaged in illegal conduct during the pendency of their proposed transaction, such conduct may have a bearing on their ability to satisfy the FCC’s character requirements for broadcast licensees.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter.  Please provide an update regarding any and all FCC activity related to this request by August 28, 2018.

 

Sincerely,

 

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Ranking Member

           

Mike Doyle

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

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