Nov. 15, 2017 – The NewsGuild joined NABET and CWA to submit more than 3,900 signatures on a petition opposing the FCC’s plan to eliminate longstanding rules governing media ownership – rules that are intended to protect local news coverage and guarantee a diversity of voices.
“If the rules are abolished, residents would face a drastic loss of local news coverage – and jobs – as media companies consolidate,” said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote at its Nov.16 meeting to eliminate rules that prevent companies from owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, announced the proposed rule change just three weeks earlier.
There were no provisions for public comments, but the unions, along with thousands of others, gave comments and signed petitions nonetheless.
“Apparently, Pai isn’t concerned about what ordinary citizens think about the plan,” said Charlie Braico, president of NABET (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians). “The proposals seem to be tailor-made for the Sinclair Broadcast Group.”
Sinclair announced plans to buy Tribune Media in the spring, soon after the FCC lifted a cap on the number of stations a company can own. If the purchase is approved, it would give Sinclair access to more than 70 percent of television viewers in the United States.
Sinclair is notorious for insisting stations air segments produced at its corporate headquarters. The “must-run” segments replace local programming and frequently feature commentary by former Trump White House official Boris Epshteyn.
“The merger of these media giants would lead to the overwhelming dominance of the nation’s local broadcast stations by a single company,” Lunzer said. “It also would expand Sinclair’s insidious ‘must-run’ segments to additional outlets around the country. You have to wonder which represents the greater danger.”
But Sinclair can’t complete its takeover of Tribune Media unless the FCC guts current rules.
“If Pai and the FCC push through the proposed changes, there will be fewer independent and local voices than before, fewer journalists on the beat, and less locally produced content,” Braico said.