The broadcaster needed to sell stations to stay under federal media ownership limits, but instead it aggressively pushed proposals that would have left it in effective control of some of those spun-off outlets — raising alarms at an FCC that had already relaxed some ownership rules to the company’s benefit.
Add another word. Arrogance.
“Sinclair’s style in Washington is exhibit A of how to squander the most favorable regulatory environment in decades,” said one broadcast industry official who has monitored the deal’s progress.
In December, when the FCC announced a $13 million fine against Sinclair over an unrelated issue — an allegation that the company violated sponsorship identification rules — Sinclair took the aggressive step of saying it would fight the penalty rather than attempt to settle.
Sinclair boss David Smith evidently felt he could treat the Washington bosses the same way he treats his Maryland neighbors.
“Let’s be honest, if you’re Sinclair and you lose Chairman Pai, you’ve done something wrong,” said a person in the media industry who opposed to the transaction.
Indeed, under industry lobbyist Ajit Pai, the commission has largely turned its back on the public it is supposed to be serving, and instead became an agency for corporate media.
But Sinclair’s tactics and shifty tactics managed to turn even Pai off.
Another misstep by Sinclair was that is allowed the government’s review process to drag on, giving the broadcaster’s many critics time to savage the transaction.
The result was more time for controversies such as a viral video in April that showed a series of Sinclair anchors reading from the same script on the threat of “fake news” — widely seen as a Trump-style broadside aimed at mainstream press outlets.
“If the company had really paid attention to FCC precedent and listened to the FCC, they could’ve got this deal done easily,” another media industry official said. “But they refused.”
“Must-run” should never be confused with “Must-approve.”