May 7 (UPI) — Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed Wednesday to pay a record $48 million civil penalty to settle multiple Federal Communication Commission investigations.
The FCC announced the payment would close three investigations related to Sinclair’s proposed deal to purchase 42 television stations from Tribune Media in 2017 and was the largest penalty against a broadcaster in the agency’s 86-year history.
“Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “Today’s penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair/Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licenses seeking Commission approval of a transaction in the future.”
Sinclair paid the fines to close investigations into its disclosure of information related to the Tribune deal, whether it negotiated retransmission consent agreements with cable networks in good faith and its failure to identify the sponsor of content it produced for the television stations it owns.
Tribune pulled out of the $3.9 billion merger in August and filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Sinclair saying the company knew it was taking a substantial risk by concealing information about its relationships with certain buyers from the FCC.
Pai added that the FCC will not revoke Sinclair’s licenses as a result of the settlement.
“I disagree with those, who for transparently political reasons, demand that we revoke Sinclair’s licenses,” said Pai. “While they don’t like what they perceive to be the broadcaster’s viewpoints, the First Amendment still applies around here.”