The FCC, headed by Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed under President Obama and recently named by Trump as chairman, has eased restrictions in order to make it easier for media companies to own more stations in more markets:
The Federal Communications Commission, on a 2-1 Republican-led vote on Thursday, restored the practice of counting just part of some stations’ audience.[…] The change adds room to grow for companies including Sinclair, Nexstar Media Group Inc. […] Sinclair, with 173 TV stations, is working to finalize a deal to buy Tribune, which owns stations in major markets including New York, Chicago, and Miami.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is a family-owned business based in Maryland. They own and operate 173 stations in 81 markets covering 24% of American households mostly in the South and Midwest. Their local affiliates include Fox, ABC, CBS, and others.
SBG has a history of using its stations to promote a conservative message and also attempted to influence the 2004 election in favor of the Republican Party, says Media Matters. Days before the 2004 presidential election the network pre-empted regular programming to run an anti-John Kerry film.
More recently the Washington Post published: How the nation’s largest owner of TV stations helped Donald Trump’s campaign. In it they document Sinclair Broadcasting’s intentional tilt toward Trump. This included directing their stations toward favorable to neutral coverage of his campaign and an emphasis on negative reporting regarding the Clinton campaign.
Trump’s right hand man, son-in-law Jared Kushner, reportedly acknowledged that the campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting, providing them access in exchange for wide coverage. The agreement gave Trump’s campaign a local edge over national networks in swing states such as Florida and Ohio where SBG dominates. With a greater local audience assured Kushner said simply “it’s math.”
After their planned merger, when finalized Sinclair will have added 26% to their existing nationwide coverage. Factoring in overlapping market share between Sinclair and the company it plans to acquire new coverage will reach 42%. Think how effective the newer bigger stronger Sinclair propaganda could be for Trump and other GOP favorites the next time around.
And don’t expect PBS news reporting to pick up the slack. Trump’s “skinny” GOP budget doesn’t just target the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the major funding arm for PBS) with sizable cuts but with total elimination. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney broadcast his administration’s plans to “unwind our involvement in CPB” loud and clear: […] [the budget] will see a zero next to it; the policy is we’re ending federal involvement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Trump may continue his 100-day stumble-and-flail at day-to-day governing — his new role. But it’s just not his world. His most successful role was as reality TV star, playing a caricature of himself as a world’s best deal maker/businessman.
But he does know brand marketing is all about grabbing control of the largest friendly market-share coverage. For Donald it is not about fair or balanced — fact or fiction. As his right hand man, son-in-law Kushner admitted “It’s math.”
Of course, the next generation might have trouble with understanding that concept once Sesame Street’s “The Count” isn’t around to teach them their numbers.