Troubled by the size and the scope of the pending Sinclair/Tribune television merger, even conservative media players think the deal is bad for democracy.
In a surprising twist, many of the voices speaking out against the emergence of a “Trump TV” behemoth are coming from Donald Trump’s side of the aisle.
Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a close Trump ally, slammed the pending merger between the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, insisting that the move “cannot be justified” and that it will “harm” American democracy.
And Ruddy is not the only conservative media player rejecting the Trump-friendly, $3.9 billion deal currently pending at the Federal Communications Commission.
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck signed off on a letter to congressional leaders that denounced the proposed merger for posing a threat to “the very freedom of expression cherished by people regardless of political persuasion.”
And Huffington Post reports that Charles Herring, the CEO of One America News, which has emerged as a Trump White House media darling, is also warning about the proposed Trump TV deal. “The real concern here is if you have an entity with excessive, unbalanced power in the marketplace, which Sinclair arguably has now,” Herring said.
The intramural fighting within the conservative media community highlights how contentious and controversial the looming Sinclair/Tribune merger is.
It also evinces how deep the fears run that the new entity will not only warp the commercial marketplace, but exist as a White House sounding board, with more than 200 stations broadcasting nationwide, including many major markets, and the ability to reach 72 percent of American households.
But will those concerns even be heard? Trump’s FCC seems determined to clear the way for the unprecedented merger, as the FCC chairman himself recently intervened by applying a loophole to the merger in order to make it workable. The FCC seems perfectly willing today to just tear up previous regulations that placed a strict limit on the number of stations one broadcast company could own.
And in Congress, Republicans have shown no interest in questioning the deal. Not only do many Republicans receive donations from Sinclair, but they also benefit from GOP-friendly newscasts in local markets where the company owns stations. (Just ask Rep. Greg Gianforte.)
During the campaign, Trump’s son-in-law and now adviser, Jared Kushner, reportedly struck a deal with Sinclair — which has a long, disturbing history of broadcasting Republican propaganda under the guise of local news — to provide access to the candidate in exchange for better coverage.
But perhaps this new venture is a step too far for some even in the most conservative media sectors.
Says Ruddy, “A free and diverse press, a bedrock principle of American democracy, will be crippled by this proposed merger.”