The Federal Communications Commission apparently thinks it’s a-okay for giant media corporations to buy up every local news organization in a given region and give all of them the same partisan slant.
In a 3-2 vote today, the FCC moved to back regulatory laws that had been in place for decades, allowing media outlets to be bought and sold much more quickly and easily. FCC chairman Ajit Pai—who is also an avowed enemy of net neutrality—said that through this ruling, the FCC “drags its broadcast ownership rules to the digital age.” He says that the previous regulations were a threat to smaller news organizations struggling to keep up with the changing media landscape.
But according to The Los Angeles Times, the real beneficiaries of the ruling are the executives at Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the conservative media outlet that already owns the highest number of local news stations in the country. Up until now, Sinclair had been blocked from buying up too many news outlets in one area. But now, per The L.A. Times:
One longstanding rule repealed Thursday prevented companies from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station in the same media market. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations.
The FCC also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations any media company could simultaneously own in a single market.
Now, Sinclair will be able to buy up local news stations practically at will, and employ their time-honored tactic of injecting hardline right-wing viewpoints into the news. If you doubt their incredible partisanship or the effect it has, take a look at this John Oliver video explaining their methodology:
On top of that, the FCC’s willingness to step aside and do nothing makes it much easier for Sinclair to acquire Tribune Media, a deal discussed in the video above. This $3.4 billion acquisition would make Sinclair the single largest broadcasting group in the nation, which has rightfully made it a target for scrutiny from critics.
The L.A. Times quotes Senators opposing the merger:
“This merger would never have been possible without a series of actions to overturn decades-long, settled legal precedent by Chairman Pai,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and 14 other lawmakers said in a letter. The letter added that Pai has “signaled his clear receptiveness to approving the Sinclair-Tribune transaction and in fact paved the way for its consummation.”
Much like Ajit Pai’s stance on net neutrality, he makes a big deal of how this is somehow a victory for First Amendment rights and individual freedom. And much like his attack on net neutrality, this is really just about letting huge corporations do whatever they want without any threat of consequences from the government.