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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."

Go deeper

Dozens of local stations blacked out for Dish customers amid pandemic

Dozens of local news and sports stations across the country are blacked out for customers of satellite TV giant Dish Network after it failed to renegotiate programming fee agreements with the station owners.

Why it matters: Dish is known for being a shrewd negotiator when it comes to hashing out fees with station owners. But its recent slew of local blackouts is creating an enormous local news draught for many communities during the pandemic.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.