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The Sinclair Broadcast Group Take Over Of Local News Stations Reminds Us That The FCC Is Still F*cking Us

By Emily Cutler | Last Week Tonight | July 3, 2017 |

By Emily Cutler | Last Week Tonight | July 3, 2017 |

Do you ever have those moments where previously separate elements of your life come crashing together, and you’re not entirely sure exactly how to feel? I mean, you’re mostly excited because two things that you like/are interested in have now joined forces, but on the other hand, you’re a tiny bit worried because the natural order of things seems to have been upended? What I’m basically saying is that if Robin Baumgarten somehow ends up hanging out with John Oliver, I’m going to flip my lid. But let’s back up for a second.

As the Last Week Tonight segment explains, the Sinclair Broadcast Group is currently the largest owner of local TV stations, and will more than likely be significantly expanding the number of stations it owns before the end of the year. That’s because in May, Sinclair reached a deal to buy Tribune Media’s local news stations. Including Chicago’s beloved WGN. Known mostly as the home for the baseball team that people I usually love and admire mistakenly believe is better than the White Sox, WGN is more importantly the home of Chicago’s Best (which is better than Check, Please. I will die on this hill), and WGN Morning News.

The team at the WGN Morning News aren’t exactly good at their jobs, but they’re amazing at what they do. Which is to say, they know to an extent that ninety-percent of their show will not be hard hitting news stories, and they own that. Like when they have to watch a bridge demolition in downstate Joliet. As with late night hosts, the comedic elements of the show don’t take away from the journalistic integrity; it just allows them to acknowledge that not every subject needs to be approached with reverence. Also back when most sports anchors were ignoring the fact that Floyd Mayweather is a piece of shit, WGN’s own Pat Tomasulo had some thoughts.

The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight costs $100 to watch live. And the only way I think it’s worth it is if we get to see Mayweather get kicked in the groin for every time he’s been arrested for domestic violence. That’d be six times. Six times he’d get kicked in the groin. That’d be worth it.

And then one time he dunked on a small child, and made him cry. I’m a big fan of Pat.

My larger point being, I don’t want people fucking with my morning news show. I especially don’t want people who had regulations reversed so that this very deal could take place fucking with my news show. Yeah, the FCC is fucking with us again. Chicago’s other favorite TV station WTTW illuminated us to this fact in an article specifically about WGN’s being taken over.

The FCC had regulations in place to prevent one company from owning stations that broadcast to more than 39 percent of the country. But the Trump administration appointed Ajit Pai as FCC chair, who has reinstated a regulatory loophole allowing corporations to exceed the ownership cap. If the deal goes through, Sinclair could reach 70 percent of all U.S. households.

So basically we’ve got an administration which changed the rules so that a company favorable to that administration can buy more stuff, gain more power, and reach more people with their important message of how great this administration is. This all seems fine. Also fine? The fact that now that Sinclair Broadcast Group is moving into more liberal markets like New York, LA, and Chicago, they might have to tailor their content to attract more viewers. And when was the last time a thing went horribly wrong because specific segments of the population were being targeted with news which was different from the news that most of the country was getting?

There’s an important discussion to be had about the role of political bias in the news, and the ways in which that can be managed and compensated for. But using shitty, underhanded, deceptive practices, and pushing flagrantly false stories never has a role in how we get our information. And Larry Potash and I will not stand for Sinclair’s interference.

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