DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Sinclair Broadcast Group is based in Maryland. This is a conservative company that owns more local TV stations than any other company in the country. And Sinclair is about to get bigger with a $3.9 billion deal with Tribune Media. If regulators approve this deal - and that's likely - Sinclair would own - or run more than 200 stations as NPR's David Folkenflik reports.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: It is the opposite of a household name, but Sinclair is well known in both media and political circles. While it is publicly traded, the company is controlled by the four Smith brothers of Baltimore County. Their push for expansion has been impressive, but their reach has largely been limited to smaller to medium markets. The Tribune Media deal would give Sinclair entree to the nation's three largest markets in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. And it would have a place in seven of the nation's top 10 markets.
Sinclair agreed to take on $2.7 billion in debt to do the deal. Under the leadership of new chairman, Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission has relaxed regulations that would have made it harder for Sinclair to expand. The company's conservative philosophy plays out in the commentaries that run on many of its stations, and in its news coverage as well, which has created tensions within its newsrooms over the years. During last year's campaign, Sinclair gave Donald Trump sympathetic coverage and required stations to broadcast certain must-run stories that reflected poorly on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In December, Politico reported that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, boasted the campaign had traded access for favorable treatment by Sinclair, a claim the company rejected. The Smith brothers have produced programs to run on stations throughout its chain in the past, and they've toyed with the possibility of creating a national conservative outlet to compete with Fox News. A top Sinclair official called the deal transformational yesterday, suggesting that the acquisition may put them closer to those ambitions. David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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