The Federal Communications Commission FCC is making plans t to fine Sinclair Broadcasting Corp $13.3 million after the company’s failure to state the fact that programming that aired on local TV stations had the financial backing of a cancer institute.
According to the people who briefed Reuters, the planned fine covers around 1,700 spots including commercials which took the form of news and were aired during newscasts for the Utah-based Huntsman Cancer Institute for six months back in 2016. This fine could very well affect even though slightly Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co.
The spokesmen of both Sinclair Broadcasting and the FCC declined to comment on the issues. Sinclair Broadcasting had previously told reporters that the violations weren’t intentional, stating that they were being investigated in their financial filings.
Sinclair, a broadcasting firm that has over 170 U.S. television stations and is also the largest U.S. operator back in May announced that they are going to purchase Tribune’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets and also cable network WGN America and digital multicast network Antenna TV, a move that would see them reach 72% of American households. At the moment, both the FCC and the DOJ are reviewing the company’s planned acquisition of Tribune.
The fine which had the nod of a five-member FCC earlier this week hasn’t been made public yet, but it is very significant, according to the officials. The penalty for their negligence is an average fine of about $7,700 for each of the improperly aired spots, though this is low compared to what the company will pay under the law.
The company will be given the opportunity to respond to the fine before it is finalized. This has caused some political tension as some Democrats have questioned if FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is biased in favor of Sinclair.
Last month, Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings requested the FCC’s inspector general to look into the commission’s decisions that favored Sinclair. With a media report surfacing last year that the election campaign of President Donald Trump struck a deal with Sinclair for favorable coverage.
Head of FCC Pai has since denied those allegations.
According to Advocacy group Free Press in their FCC filing back in August, they stated that Sinclair makes it compulsory for its stations to “air pro-Trump propaganda and then seeks favors from the Trump administration.”