Sinclair’s purchase of regional sports networks draws ire of Booker, Sanders and Warren |
Politics Election

Sinclair’s purchase of regional sports networks draws ire of Booker, Sanders and Warren

Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami.

WASHINGTON — Sens. Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have gotten together to criticize the acquisition of 21 regional sports networks by Sinclair Broadcast Group, asking what the FCC and the Justice Department might be doing about it.

The sports channels, which televise major professional and college sports to regional audiences, came up for sale as a condition of the Disney acquisition of what had been Fox assets.

“It is clear that Sinclair has an explicit interest in, and commitment to, relaying partisan political messages to its viewers — making its recent anti competitive expansion attempts into millions of additional households all the more concerning,” the senators wrote.

Democrats, including the three 2020 presidential hopefuls, have been critical of Sinclair’s use of must-air segments featuring conservative commentary in their local newscasts in stations across the country.

Booker, Sanders and Warren mention favorable coverage of President Trump on Sinclair-owned stations as part of their cause for alarm, but they also focus on potential effects on pricing of popular sports programming.

“The RSNs Sinclair purchased from Disney — collectively ‘the largestgroup of commonly controlled RSNs’ — reach approximately 74 million subscribers across the country and have the rights to telecast the games of almost half of all the professional sports teams in three of the four major American sports leagues,” Warren, Sanders and Booker wrote in joint a letter dated Monday.

The senators wrote to both Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and the assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, to express their concerns about the possible for increased costs to cable and satellite consumers.

“Sinclair, which now owns nearly two dozen RSNs, could market to distributors combinations of sports and local television channels that they have to offer to consumers as a bundle package,” the senators wrote. “Distributors understand the value of live sports and the limited number of un-bundled live sport streaming options available to consumers leave ‘sports fans … tethered to their cable bundle,’” the three senators explained. “Therefore, the agreement with Disney offers Sinclair an opportunity to charge consumers more by packaging their cable and broadcast programs.”

The senators are requesting that they be notified no later than July 8 whether Disney or the Sinclair has applied with the Justice Department and the FCC for the approval of the transfer, which could lay the groundwork further questions and a public review.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.