Sinclair to Pay $48 Million Penalty to FCC to Settle Investigations

The fine, which the FCC says is the largest ever by a broadcaster, covers the company’s actions during its ill-fated takeover of Tribune Media, the focus of which was its disclosures to the commission around the proposed merger.
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Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to pay a $48 million penalty to the Federal Communications Commission as part of a deal to settle three open investigations into the company.

The fine, which the FCC says is the largest ever by a broadcaster, covers Sinclair’s actions during its ill-fated takeover of Tribune Media. The focus of the investigation was the company’s disclosures to the commission around the proposed merger.

The fine also covers an investigation into whether Sinclair met its obligations to negotiate retransmission consent agreements in good faith, as well as an investigation into the company’s failure to identify the sponsor of content it produced and supplied to local television stations.

At the same time that it is fining Sinclair, the FCC also rebuked calls to revoke the company’s local TV licenses for its conduct.

“Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said Wednesday in a 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."

Added Pai, "On the other hand, I disagree with those who, for transparently political reasons, demand that we revoke Sinclair’s licenses. While they don’t like what they perceive to be the broadcaster’s viewpoints, the First Amendment still applies around here."

Chris Ripley, President/CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group released a statement Wednesday on the consent decree: "Sinclair is pleased with the resolution announced today by the FCC and to be moving forward. We thank the FCC staff for their diligence in reaching this resolution. Sinclair is committed to continue to interact constructively with all of its regulators to ensure full compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations." 

May 6, 4:47 p.m. Updated with Sinclair statement.