Rainbow pushes anti-Sinclair proceedings


The Rainbow PUSH coalition has been on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s case since 1998, saying that its operation of stations licensed to other companies constituted “the largest broadcast ownership fraud scheme in history.” Now it is going to bat for cable operator Mediacom in its retrans battle with Sinclair.

David Honig put on his attorney’s hat to represent Rainbow in its latest filing, apart from his leadership role with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Act.

Honig noted that numerous challenges to Sinclair license renewals, and to relationships with stations in certain markets creating de facto duopolies, have gone unaddressed by the FCC. He cited evidence the Rainbow believes warrants a full FCC investigation into Sinclair’s fitness to be a licensee.

Rainbow contends that Sinclair has de facto control over Cunningham Broadcasting Stations, and that it has “brazenly violated basic broadcast disclosure requirements and federal campaign report spending rules” in a variety of ways.

And that’s where Mediacom comes in: “Mediacom’s recent retransmission complaint against Sinclair again raises the issues of Sinclair’s character, fair dealing, and questionable control over broadcast television stations. As Mediacom’s complaint illustrates, Sinclair has refused to engage in good faith negotiations and has made anticompetitive demands that violate the Commission’s policies favoring competition. Specifically, Sinclair has used its bottleneck control over multiple stations in a market as a bargaining chip.”

Mediacom notes that in many markets, Sinclair controls two of the top four stations, a combination that would have been prohibited had Michael Powell’s relaxation of television duopoly rules survived the Prometheus case after Powell’s 2003 dereg attempt.

A pdf file of the document can be read in the attachment box to the right.

RBR-TVBR observation: Local in-market arrangements between separately owned television stations may well be an economic necessity in many markets, but they are politically incorrect in terms of the anti-consolidation leanings of those now holding the reins in Washington.

Television LMAs, JSAs, TBAs and SSAs figured to be a part of the quadrennial review anyway; the Honolulu SSA added a spark, cable operators are fanning the flame for all they are worth, and here Rainbow is adding its own pile of dry sticks to the smoldering issue.

Ironically, in this case, charges are being leveled that even while Sinclair is allegedly handling negotiations for others, it’s getting a negotiation boost in its own right from News Corp. on behalf of Sinclair’s many Fox-affiliated stations.