The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Message to the left on Sinclair: Don't bleat, buy!

What was Bill Clinton thinking when he signed broadcasting ownership deregulation into law in 1996? (As voted for by vast majorities of Democrats in Congress - see piece from yesterday.)

Surely he must have expected the VRWC to use its financial muscle to put together right-wing media groups dedicated to the Goldwaterite New World Order?

And surely also, that his own people would not make a profession of bellyaching from the bleachers.

More of the same from Eric Boehlert in Salon, rounding up the grievance choir's a cappella work.

Of course, from this side of the pond, it seems weird that a broadcasting company can acquire a bunch of stations for the purpose of turning out partisan propaganda.

But then, we think it odd that, in America's 'national sport', teams are not only permitted to brawl on the field of play with impunity, but such rough-housing is practically obligatory!

In both cases - however crazy they may seem - rules are rules.

There was such a thing as the fairness doctrine enforced by the FCC; there were strict limits on station ownership. The former was removed in 1987 when there was a Democrat majority in both houses of Congress [1]; the latter were relaxed in a bill signed by a Democratic president.

And, where first there was Rush, now there is Franken. Fairness is neither offered nor expected. Fox News pumps out GOP propaganda.

The fairness doctrine has gone the way of the USSR and Betamax.

The good news is that Sinclair Broacast - as Boehlert points out - is on the skids. And this has caused much rejoicing in DEWDROP-land.

Nowhere, though, have I seen it suggested that this be capitalised on by the likes of George Soros getting together a syndicate to buy Sinclair and use its 62 stations for Dem propaganda [2]. (Is it possible that the targeting of Sinclair advertisers and mutual fund investors may just be for the very capitalistic purpose of running the stock price down? Surely not...)

  1. Interestingly, a bill (apparently) to restore the fairness doctrine, S 742, was passed in 1987 and vetoed by Reagan. (Bill text not available on THOMAS.)

    The DC Circuit got to pass on the FCC's decision in 1989 in Syracuse Peace Council v FCC.

    Of course, Clinton had the entire 103rd Congress with majorities in both house in which to restore the doctrine, had he so wished.

  2. I can find no list of current stockholders - the SEC site is a closed book to me! This list of mutual fund and pension fund stockholders covers less than 40% of total stock. I suspect that there may be a class of stock with special voting rights that is closely held. Taking over Sinclair may be a job of work - before the bankruptcy laws kick in, that is...


A selection of pieces on Sinclair from the 1990s.

According to a 1996 piece from Forbes,
Owning 82% of the Baltimore-based company, Smith's family is worth at least $1.1 billion.
At that stage,
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., controls 28 television stations and 34 radio stations in 15 states.

Presumably, subsequent expansion has necessitated a dilution of the family's equity in the company. But I'm guessing that, with trusts and foundations, they still comfortably control it.

(There's plenty of info in the pieces linked: it may be that the answer is to be found therein - when I get round to reading the stuff!)


I now have Sinclair's current 10-K.

It says that
Holders of Class A Common Stock are entitled to one vote per share and holders of Class B Common Stock are entitled to ten votes per share except for votes relating to “going private” and certain other transactions.

According to a 2001 Business Week piece,
the Smiths control 91% of the Class B voting stock.

As far as a liberal coup is concerned, therefore, it will be bankruptcy first, takeover afterwards!

I've an idea FCC licences for stations automatically come up for review when there is a change in control of the company owning them.

Clearly, we're deep into the Land of Druthers...

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