LOS ANGELES – JUNE 14: The Tribune owned KTLA Channel 5 television antenna is seen June 14, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The Tribune Company’s second largest shareholder, the Chandler family, has called for a breakup of the media giant, which owns 11 newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and 26 television stations. The Chandlers want the Tribune to separate broadcasting from the newspaper business as well as explore other alternatives such as breaking up and selling some or all of the newspaper properties. (Photo by J. Emilio Flores/Getty Images)

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 05/08/17 – 5:09 PM PDT |

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s plan to buy Tribune Media Co. for $3.9 billion will broadly expand its reach, but some experts fear the expanded company with a conservative lean will drown out other local sources of broadcast television news.

That deal, plus other pending acquisitions, will give Sinclair a total of 233 TV stations, including KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles and KSWB Channel 5 in San Diego. The Hunt Valley, Maryland-based company is also in the process of buying Bonten Media Group, which owns 14 stations, for $240 million. Once those deals are completed, Sinclair said its stations will reach 72 percent of all U.S. households that have a TV.

Sinclair acknowledged it may sell off some stations to comply with Federal Communications Commission rules.

Matt Wood, policy director for Free Press, a nonprofit media and technical advocacy organization, said the acquisitions would put Sinclair 30 percentage points over the national broadcast ownership cap of 39 percent if not for the FCC’s move to reinstate a UHF discount.

Under that discount, the FCC counts a UHF station’s viewership reach only half as much as the actual population covered by that station’s signal. Wood said Sinclair’s conservative-leaning stance would also crowd out other political views, often without TV viewers being aware of it.

“We have no problem with presenting political views on either side,” Wood said. “But viewers will have what appears to be local news being presented by a local station that’s actually being handed down from a higher source.”

Dana Chinn, a lecturer with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, described the Sinclair/Tribune deal as “business as usual” in the media realm and doubts that it will result in antitrust issues.

“I don’t think there has been a meaningful antitrust consideration for some time,” she said. “The concept of antitrust seems like a noble thought, but it’s not really being reinforced from a legal standpoint or a market standpoint.”

Sinclair said it will pay about $43.50 in cash and stock for each share of Tribune, an 8 percent premium from Tribune’s closing price of $40.29 on Friday. Sinclair shares lost 83 cents Monday to close at $36.12.

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