Sinclair Comments on Inaccurate and Irresponsible Report Released by Free Press
BALTIMORE, Oct. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. ("Sinclair" or the "Company") (Nasdaq: SBGI) commented today on a recent anti-consolidation "report" by the so-called "public interest" group, Free Press, that misrepresents not only the completely legal actions by numerous broadcast companies, but also the impact of such structures on news coverage in local markets. Such statements are particularly egregious given that Sinclair reached out to Craig Aaron, the President and CEO of Free Press, earlier this year to provide facts completely contrary to the statements in Free Press' Report and offered to discuss the issues further with Mr. Aaron. Sinclair received no response whatsoever to the letter sent to Mr. Aaron, a copy of which is attached to this press release, indicating that Free Press does not wish to have the facts interfere with its political agenda.
Despite the actions of broadcasters in providing services to television stations they do not own being completely legal, publicly disclosed and fully considered and approved by the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"), Free Press outrageously claims broadcasters are engaging in "covert" arrangements, using "loopholes" and acting "in direct violation of the law." In addition, despite specific evidence to the contrary, Free Press claims that, "[t]his wave [of acquisitions] is leaving in its wake shuttered newsrooms and jobless journalists in communities all across the country" resulting in "the devastation of community-centered journalism." Such inaccurate, irresponsible and potentially defamatory comments made by a group that declined a direct offer from Sinclair to become better informed, demonstrates the bias and complete lack of credibility of Free Press, which should be taken into account when considering all past and future comments the group makes.
David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair, commented, "To set the record straight, every transaction we have entered into completely complies with the law and the regulations of the FCC and where required, as was true in most cases, were approved by the FCC after full disclosure of each aspect of our transactions. While we respect the right of Free Press to express its opinion on the advisability of the FCC's rules, we vehemently object to their misguided and offensive claims that broadcasters who simply follow the FCC's rules are using "shell companies" and "shady tactics" to "dodge" FCC rules.
"Moreover, contrary to the apparently intentionally uninformed views expressed by Free Press, there is no question on the positive contributions and the substantial investments we have made in the local markets we operate, especially in the newsrooms. In the past 18 months alone, we have added a net 77 positions across our organization, of which 72 were news related. Many of the stations we purchased were dressed for sale, emerging from bankruptcy or under invested by their prior owners. We have fully staffed those stations, as well as made significant investments in capital upgrades, programming and promotion.
"Not only have we created jobs, but we have added 81 hours of local news per week, allowing us to deliver an increasing number of meaningful local news stories to our viewers. We have made significant investments to upgrade stations to high-definition newscasts so that our consumers can have a high-quality news experience. But most importantly, through our news efforts, we have helped countless communities in crisis recover, most recently in Moore and Oklahoma City where, through our local news stations, our Sinclair Relief Fund raised more than $600,000 for local charities to help those communities recover from tragedy.
"In the past year, Sinclair TV stations have held more than 40 'Your Voice Your Future' live town halls around the country focusing on important local issues including gun control, same-sex marriage, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, immigration, public education, and jobs. More than 3,500 members of the public have attended these public service events and countless more have participated live using social media. These town hall telecasts have received widespread praise and have been recognized with Awards for Excellence by New York State Broadcasters and Maine Association of Broadcasters and have been awarded an Emmy and an Associated Press award. In addition, our stations have created public and community service segments within the local news to discuss and educate the viewer on important topics.
"All told, we currently produce more than 1,055 hours of local news every single week and the inaccurate comments of Free Press are an affront to the almost 5,600 hardworking and dedicated professionals that work for Sinclair. Our news employees have dedicated their careers to providing the public with vital news and information and serving as government watchdogs on their behalf. We could not be prouder of their outstanding efforts, often in the face of very difficult circumstances involving natural disasters and other dangerous situations. While Free Press chooses to ignore the facts, those with a less biased and more informed nature have instead lauded these efforts. For 2012 alone, stations which we own or provide news programming to won 27 Emmy Awards, 93 Associated Press / State Broadcaster Awards, 14 other acclaimed awards, including 3 Murrows; for outstanding journalism, best investigative reporting, and excellence in news coverage, among other news related assignments.
"It is unfortunate and ironic that so-called 'media watch dog groups,' such as Free Press, would flaunt the First Amendment to spew unsubstantiated attacks on those who are truly serving the public's interest. When an organization, such as Free Press, uses a 1945 quote regarding promoting diverse viewpoints to chide and insult the Federal Communications Commission's ethics and intelligence, without recognizing the changes in the dissemination of information that have occurred in the last almost 70 years, then that should be a red flag that the organization is not working in the public's best interest and is simply disconnected to the real world and its multiple voices found in newspapers, cable networks, radio, outdoor, television and the Internet. Their own comments demonstrate that the issue is not one of too few voices, but rather that not everyone who uses the press to promote their own agenda is credible."
About Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.:
On a pro forma basis assuming consummation of all previously announced acquisitions, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., the largest and one of the most diversified television broadcasting companies in the U.S., will own and operate, program or provide sales services to 162 television stations in 77 markets. Sinclair's television group will reach approximately 38.7% (24.3% for purposes of the 39% FCC ownership cap) of U.S. television households and will be affiliated with all major networks. Sinclair owns equity interests in various non-broadcast related companies. The Company regularly uses its website as a key source of Company information which can be accessed at www.sbgi.net.
BARRY M. FABER
Executive Vice President/General Counsel
Direct Dial (410) 568-1524
August 8, 2013
Mr. Craig Aaron
President & CEO
1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Aaron,
I recently read your public response to Sinclair's announced transaction with Allbritton Communications. Although I understand and appreciate the stated roles of organizations like Free Press as advocates for the public interest through the promotion of vibrant, quality journalism, I am writing to provide you with my own thoughts on the issues raised in your comments.
First, Sinclair does not take a "cookie cutter" approach to our news business. On the contrary, we take pride in delivering locally generated content with a focus on serving as an advocate for the viewers of our stations. Our emphasis on accountability through investigative journalism has led us to increase newsroom positions, news hours and budgets for our acquired stations. In Austin, for example, we recently increased KEYE TV's news operations by adding morning and 5PM newscasts and are now delivering local content that did not exist prior to Sinclair's acquisition of this station. In West Palm Beach, we just added 9 newsroom positions to enable the generation of quality local journalism like Waste Watch, an initiative to investigate and report on how our viewers' local tax dollars are being spent. Outside of the news arena, we have substantially increased our production of local sports programming in multiple markets through our Thursday Night Lights initiatives to highlight local athletes and high school teams. These are just a few of the numerous examples of Sinclair's focus on adding relevant, meaningful content, hiring local employees, and expanding and upgrading news operations.
Second, while I understand that you disagree with the FCC's treatment of television shared service agreements, I feel that it is unfair to paint Sinclair as a bad actor for simply abiding by the current regulatory structure consistent with the practice of many other television broadcasters. Joint sales agreements and shared service agreements often promote diversity by enabling smaller stations to stay on the air or provide better programming where they otherwise could not. In some markets, cost savings resulting from these transaction structures have supported the provision of local news programming by stations, thereby furthering the public interest. While I don't necessarily expect to sway your views on this subject, I would instead suggest that a response to the FCC's invitations for comments to Notices of Proposed Rule Making would be a more appropriate and constructive venue for your assertions.
I hope this information is helpful. If you would be interested in further discussing the topic, please let me know.
Barry M. Faber
Executive Vice President/General Counsel
SOURCE Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.