Deadspin’s Sinclair mash-up video woke up a nation. And it raised very pertinent questions. How can one group own so much of local broadcasting? And how is it fair that they can get away with only telling one side of the story?
It didn’t used to be this way. It’s taken decades of GOP malevolence to make this possible. Here’s a brief timeline:
1934 Congress created the FCC, and required broadcast licensees to operate, “…in the public interest, convenience and necessity.”
1949 The Fairness Doctrine is introduced, requiring broadcast licensees to air issues of public interest in an, “…honest, equitable and balanced” manner. It also required the airing of contrasting viewpoints.
1975 Cross-ownership of a newspaper and a TV station in the same market is banned.
1987 The FCC abolishes the Fairness Doctrine
2003 Congress votes to impose a new ‘permanent’ cap that would limit any company from owning local TV stations that cumulatively reach more than 39% of the U.S. viewing public
2017 The FCC abolishes the ban on cross ownership of newspapers and TV stations within a market.
2017 The FCC abolishes a rule that requires a TV station to maintain a studio in the market to which it is broadcasting news. (E.g., ‘local’ news in Phoenix could be produced in Atlanta.)
2017 The FCC proposes that the local station cap be increased from 39% to 70%. The next day, Sinclair Broadcasting announces a plan to purchase an additional 14 stations.
2018 The independent investigator general of the FCC announces an inquiry into the relationship between FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Sinclair Broadcasting.