With concerns mounting that some of America’s biggest names in business are entrenching and beginning to abuse monopolies, RedState has learned that influential conservatives inside and outside of Congress are beginning to scrutinize a proposed merger that could have implications for cable and satellite subscribers across the country.
While President Trump has previously hinted at personal opposition to the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, and that deal came under fire this week from leading conservative thinkfluencer and activist Ken Blackwell, the deal getting a closer look is actually the proposed Sinclair-Tribune Media merger.
Should the deal proceed, the post-merger broadcasting giant would allegedly reach over 70 percent of US households and potentially control 50 percent of major affiliates in certain media markets.
Opponents of the merger recently flooded the office of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) with calls. However, sources say Tea Party senators elected in the 2010 and 2012 cycles and senators from some Great Plains States are proving more skeptical of the deal. In addition, at least one highly-influential, leading conservative legal and political mind outside of Congress is now pushing senators to oppose the merger.
Conservatives generally oppose government intervention to block or hamstring mergers, but interest in anti-trust measures as a method of avoiding onerous regulation and preventing undesirable behavior by monopolies appears to be on the rise within GOP ranks. In Sinclair’s case, there are three major reasons that GOP senators privately cite for taking a more hawkish view.
First, opponents claim that Sinclair’s business model curtails local news, weather and sports programming in preference for nationally-produced, “must run” segments. While liberals have sounded the alarm over this because of the treatment of pro-Trump political commentary segments provided by a former Trump employee, Russian-born Boris Epshteyn, as “must-run,” conservatives cite a more crony-capitalist concern. For years, broadcasters have argued for special regulatory treatment based on their role in providing heavily localized news. The argument goes that Sinclair may be trying to claim the upside of that treatment while dispensing with the content that entitles them to it, thereby having its cake and eating it, too.
Second, conservatives are concerned that post-merger, Sinclair could use its market position and vastly expanded insider knowledge of what deals cable and satellite companies will and will not cut, to argue for higher retransmission fees. If that occurred, providers argue it would result in higher cable and satellite bills for average Americans, a potential anti-trust problem.
Third, conservatives are hearing from upstart right-of-center media companies who claim the Sinclair merger would damage their ability to build market share and a customer base, and thereby harm the prospects for conservative media building a toehold in the overall left-leaning US media sphere. By these critics’ telling, conservative media companies are already struggling to combat alleged bias and outright censorship from Google and Facebook, so pitting them against an even-bigger broadcasting giant could be a death blow.
It’s unlikely that the deal will be derailed by these concerns. In recent decades, very few proposed mergers with a communications component have been blocked. Those include the failed purchase of Time Warner by Comcast and the failed AT&T-T Mobile merger.
However, conditions could be attached to the proposed Sinclair deal to allow it to proceed.