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A Trump-Cozy Media Group Just Bought WGN & Other Stations In Massive Merger

By Stephen Gossett in News on May 8, 2017 4:40PM

Chicago's iconic WGN TV and WGN radio are among the dozens of properties swept up in a sweeping media acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Trump-friendly media group which was already the largest TV-station-owning company in the United States even before the huge, landscape-flipping merger.

Here's the financials: Sinclair bought Tribune Media—which holds more 42 television stations in 33 markets—at a cost of just $3.9 billion, at $43.50 per share. The Baltimore-based, conservative-leaning company also picks up some $2.7 billion in Tribune Media's debt.

As media-watch lifer Robert Feder notes, the purchase comes hot on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission decision to ease up regulations on the number of stations a company can own—which promptly sent ownership groups into bidding frenzies, according to the New York Times.

As Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne reminded on Monday morning, Sinclair agreed with the Trump campaign last year "to try and secure better media coverage," according to Politico. In exchange for greater access to the campaign, Sinclair's channels would reportedly air Trump interviews without commentary. Cursed commentary!

As Feder noted, Craig Aaron, who runs an anti-consolidation nonprofit, called the merger a "scandal" in speaking with CNN. "Trump-favoring mega-chain gets rules changed -- and expects others to be erased -- so it can put its cookie-cutter newscasts in nearly 70 percent of local markets across the country," he said. (Emphasis ours.)

A further creeping of conservatism could be on the rise in future plans. "There has also been speculation that Sinclair, with the addition of Tribune's portfolio, could try to launch a rival to Fox News, though the company has not commented on the possibility," CNN reports.

As for Sinclair, they gave it all a positive spin by pushing the news through the ever-reliable media-speak word-salad generator. Here's the sausage it made: "The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals," said Chris Ripley, President and CEO of Sinclair, in a release. "The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms." Get excited.

As for how WGN radio and TV stations will look after all is said and done, we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully any changes won't be so dramatic as to be on par with, say, the Tribune Tower being sold off to LA developers—which was Tribune Media's previously most recent jaw-dropping, end-of-an-era sell, back in September of last year.