Jul 16, 2018

FCC chair says he has "serious concerns" about Sinclair deal

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said Monday he had "serious concerns" about the purchase of Tribune Media-owned TV stations by Sinclair Broadcast Group. He said he was moving to refer the case to an administrative law judge to vet outstanding issues with the deal.

Why it matters: This is a potentially lethal obstacle for a deal that proved controversial because it would increase the reach of the conservative Sinclair network. Pai is a Republican appointee, and the Justice Department has also been looking at the deal.

What he's saying: "The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law," Pai said. "When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction."

Key context: Critics of various ideological stripes raised concerns about the way Sinclair could stay involved with some of the stations it planned to sell to get the deal approved.

Opponents of the deal praised the FCC's move. "Today’s announcement is welcome," said Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "With this hearing designation order, the agency will finally take a hard look at [Sinclair's] proposed merger with Tribune. This is overdue and favoritism like this needs to end."

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Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 649,904 — Total deaths: 30,249 — Total recoveries: 137,319.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 116,505 — Total deaths: 1,891 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Italy reports 889 deaths since Friday

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Italy has reported 889 new deaths since Friday. The country has the highest death count from the novel coronavirus.

The big picture: The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, as the number of global cases nears 650,000. Governments around the world are trying to curb the medical and financial fallout of COVID-19, as infections surge across Europe and the U.S.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health