November 27, 2018

ACA Files Petition Seeking Early Renewal Of Sinclair Television Licenses

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted Hearn
(202) 713-0826
[email protected]

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 27, 2018 – The American Cable Association on Monday filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission requesting that the agency require Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. to file early renewal applications for four of its stations.

“Processing Sinclair’s renewal applications early will permit the FCC to resolve the serious charges it leveled against Sinclair as soon as possible — charges that, if true, would speak to Sinclair’s eligibility to retain any of its FCC licenses or acquire new licenses,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The Sinclair-owned stations are WJLA (ABC, Washington, D.C.), WBFF (Fox, Baltimore, Md.), WSET (ABC, Lynchburg, Va.), and WTVZ (MyTVZ, Norfolk, Va.).

Earlier this year, the FCC designated an administrative law judge to determine whether Sinclair engaged in misrepresentation or a lack of candor when it attempted to acquire stations from Tribune. More specifically, the FCC found “substantial and material questions of fact” regarding whether Sinclair had lied about being the “real party in interest” in three stations that it proposed to divest.

Misrepresentation and lack of candor rank among the most serious violations a licensee can commit. A party that engages in such conduct can be found to lack the basic character qualifications to hold any FCC licenses. Yet the charges levied against Sinclair have never been resolved because Sinclair itself withdrew its application, and the administrative law judge has yet to take up the designation.

Sinclair’s next license renewals occur in 2020. Thus, in the ordinary course, the FCC would have no opportunity to address the concerns it raised in the Sinclair-Tribune proceeding for nearly two years. The delay would harm the public should the FCC ultimately conclude that Sinclair was unsuitable to hold licenses all along by allowing an unqualified licensee to operate for several additional years. And it would harm Sinclair should the FCC ultimately conclude otherwise by leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the company.

Fortunately, the FCC’s rules permit it to “direct” a broadcast licensee to file its renewal early where, as here, “serious charges are made against a multiple station owner some of whose license terms have not expired.”

“The FCC will ultimately have to resolve questions about Sinclair’s behavior one way or the other before Sinclair should be permitted to renew its existing licenses or obtain new ones. All parties — Sinclair not least among them — will benefit from resolution of these issues sooner rather than later,” Polka said.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing more than 700 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services to nearly 8 million customers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit: