President Trump Slams His Own FCC Over Potential Shutdown of Sinclair-Tribune Transaction

By A.J. Katz 

The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it may shut down Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, and President Trump is not happy about it. He made his feelings known about this development last night via Twitter:

These comments are at odds with what his FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement earlier this month, where he expressed “serious concerns” about Sinclair’s plan to divest certain local stations to companies with which it has ties, specifically ties to Sinclair chairman David Smith.

“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune transaction,” Pai said. “The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”

Now to be clear, the FCC has not totally ruled out giving the green light to the deal, but based on Pai’s statement, it’s not looking great.

Trump’s tweet is also at odds with the statement that his friend, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, put out last week, where he says chairman Pai “acted in a nonpartisan manner in making this decision—a marked departure from the commission’s partisan actions during the Obama administration.”

It’s notable that Newsmax and Sinclair are rivals, and its news operation is conservative, like Sinclair’s.

This is not the first time Trump has praised Sinclair. On April 2 of this year, he tweeted:

Trump’s tweet came not long after Sinclair released a promo showing dozens of anchors at many of Sinclair’s stations across the country, reading the exact same script.

In the promo, the local anchors call out “one-sided news stories,” and accuse “some media outlets” of publishing “fake stories without checking facts first.” The script echos Trump’s chief complaints of media outlets he doesn’t like.

The Sinclair-Tribune deal was struck in May 2017, and would have given Sinclair—already the largest owner of local stations in the country—ownership of more than 200 local TV stations across the nation and access to more than 70 percent of U.S. TV-owning households. The FCC is still reviewing the deal 14 months later.