Department of Justice makes inquiry into ad sales of Sinclair, Tribune, other local broadcasters

The Department of Justice is looking into whether Sinclair and other local broadcasters had gouged ad sales to vendors. / Sebastian Pichler

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into whether TV station owners from Sinclair, Tribune and other TV broadcasters in the US gouged local TV advertising rates.

The announcement came after the FCC blocked a potential merger from the two broadcast giants, sparking disapproval from President Trump and adding fuel to a conversation on local journalism, which had ignited further chatter after Tronc decimated the editorial staff of the Daily News earlier this week.

According to the Wall Street Journal, The DOJ reportedly expressed concerns about broadcaster control of inventory in markets where it looked to own multiple stations. In examining documents for the pending merger, concerns that joint efforts between the two broadcasters helped drive a prices up from both parties, that could shut out smaller broadcasters like Cox, which earlier this week made an open call about its 14 local affiilates in the US out of business.

Sinclair had made recent headlines for another controversy earlier this year, from the creation of a viral video that showcased talent from its local affiliates reciting language from the broadcaster, near-verbatim. Some felt as though the broadcaster was violating its freedom as a press by restricting the freedom of speech of its anchors.

This is the second media-related investigation for the DOJ in the past few months, last time was an unsuccessful attempt to keep the AT&T-Time Warner merger from happening. A potential deal for Sinclair and Tribune may further accelerate the consolidation of local media as evidenced in the print space through layoffs at the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News in recent months.

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