"Everything about the Sinclair-Tribune deal is offensive. Here we have a Trump appointee who's dumping all consumer safeguards to enable Sinclair to reach more than 70 percent of the country with its racist views and Republican talking points," argues Free Press. "If that weren't enough, this deal is straight up against the law. It would violate a congressional mandate that says that one company can't reach more than 39 percent of households nationwide."
For more than a year, Markey and a group of media-savvy senators -- Maria Cantwell of Washington, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Cory Booker of New Jersey -- have been raising concerns about Sinclair's proposal, and about the FCC chair's approach to it. "We are concerned about the level of media concentration this merger creates, and its impact on the public interest," the senators wrote in a June 2017, letter asking for Senate hearings on the deal. "In light of these concerns, we believe that Senate hearings would provide critical transparency for the many American consumers who will be impacted by the deal and greater accountability from the companies who must demonstrate that the deal serves the public interest."
House Democrats have also called for hearings. The current controversy over the propagandistic pronouncements on Sinclair stations invites congressional scrutiny. But Republican leaders have checked out when it comes to holding Trump and his appointees to account. So this is a moment that requires a public outcry on behalf of diverse and competitive, community-focused and service-oriented local news. That outcry must, as a beginning, demand that Pai recuse himself from deliberations regarding the Sinclair-Tribune deal.
Free Press, a group that I've been involved with since its founding, is pushing for just that. So, too, is Common Cause, which warns: "Our democracy functions best when we have a strong, diverse, and independent local journalism. But runaway media consolidation threatens that, and takes power out of communities and puts it in the hands of a few corporate executives."