Warren, Sanders and Booker Critique Sinclair RSN Deal

WASHINGTON—Three of the Democratic candidates for president are weighing in on the proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group purchase of 21 regional sports networks from Disney (formerly owned under the Fox banner). Senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (VT) and Corey Booker (N.J.) have co-signed a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Mark Delrahim asking the two organizations to look at the proposed deal.

“Given Sinclair’s market power in the local television broadcasting industry and its continued push ‘to inject conversative-tinged coverage into local markets,’ this acquisition raises serious questions about the effects such a deal would have on competition in the industry, prices for consumers and delivery of perspectives in local media and sports content,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to detail arguments from the senators through examples in recent years where they say Sinclair has attempted to garner more stations under its banner so that it can raise prices for consumers as well as relaying partisan political messages to its viewers, and how this most recent deal is another attempt to do so.

As a result, the senators are asking that the FCC and DOJ answer the following questions by July 8:

  • “Have Sinclair Broadcast Corp. and/or The Walt Disney Company filed applications seeking your Department’s consent to transfer control of Disney’s 21 Regional Sports Networks and Fox College Sports to Sinclair? If so, when did they file these applications?
  • Does your Department plan to issue a Public Notice that the application has been accepted for filing? Does your Department plan to issue a Public Notice setting a schedule for the public to submit comments on the application?

The Free State Foundation, a free market think tank, issued a rebuff of the senators’ letter, saying that neither the FCC or the DOJ can judge whether Sinclair’s programming is partisan or conservative.

“For either agency to do what the Senators ask is inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and freedom of the press,” Free State President Randolph May wrote. “Aside from whether their characterizations of Sinclair’s programming are even accurate, their purpose, an improper one, is to use government power to influence’s Sinclair’s editorial discretion.”