ACA Attacks Sinclair's Allbritton Purchase
The American Cable Association has asked the FCC to either deny Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed purchase of Allbritton Communications or prohibit Sinclair from representing multiple stations in a single market in retransmission consent negotiations.
Sinclair announced in July a deal to acquire WJLA Washington and six other ABC affiliates in smaller markets from Allbritton for $985 million.
In its petition to deny filed last Friday, ACA said that it was particularly concerned about Sinclair's plans for two of the Allbritton markets, Harrisburg-Lancaster, Pa. (DMA 43), and Charleston, S.C. (DMA 95). Since Sinclair already owns or controls stations in those markets, it plans to spin off the stations to third parties to comply with the FCC local ownership limits, but provide certain services and retain a measure of control over the stations by contract.
According to ACA, "The transaction would allow Sinclair to negotiate retransmission consent for both the CBS and ABC affiliates in Harrisburg and the Fox and ABC affiliates in Charleston.
"These combinations of two 'Big Four' network affiliates will give Sinclair more leverage in these markets than it already has, leading to higher prices for retransmission consent.
"In both of these markets, the transaction would harm consumers by increasing the cost of pay-TV service, and increasing the threat of blackouts and the harm caused by actual blackouts."