May 6, 2020 - Technology

Sinclair to pay record fine to settle FCC investigations

Photo of Sinclair's headquarters

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed to pay a record $48 million to settle three Federal Communications Commission investigations into its practices, the agency said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Despite the big penalty, the conservative-leaning broadcaster will keep its licenses after accusations the company misled regulators in its failed bid to buy Tribune Media.

Details: The settlement closes an investigation into whether the broadcaster was upfront regarding its plans for stations it planned to sell in order to obtain regulatory approval for the would-be Tribune merger.

  • Tribune called off the deal after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai raised questions about whether Sinclair would still control the stations it proposed spinning off in the side deals.
  • The FCC's settlement also resolves investigations into whether Sinclair failed to identify sponsored content suppled to television stations and if it acted in good faith during negotiations with pay-TV providers to air its programming.

What they're saying: Pai said he disagrees with those who "for transparently political reasons," wanted to see Sinclair's licenses revoked, saying in a statement "the First Amendment still applies around here.” 

  • “Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable,” Pai said in the statement. “Today’s penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair/Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licensees seeking commission approval of a transaction in the future."
  • Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said in a statement tweeted by the company that the broadcaster is pleased to move forward and that it is "committed to continue to interact constructively with all of its regulators."
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