Some television station employees, media analysts and media critics are unhappy with Allbritton Communication's decision to sell its portfolio of ABC affiliates to Sinclair Broadcast Group.
In Arlington, Va., the ARL Now website is citing unnamed sources inside Allbritton flagship WJLA-TV, which serves the No. 8-ranked Washington D.C. television market, who are worried about possible cutbacks and layoffs:
"Everybody [is] s***ting bricks," one newsroom source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ARLnow.com. "[The] mood is very tense. Everyone thinks there’ll be massive cutbacks and reductions in the next year. Not a single person is happy about the new owners."
Meanwhile, FreePress, a group that "advocates for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism," is taking aim at Sinclair's politics and the deal's affects on media ownership, via a statement to Broadcasting & Cable:
"The rapid and massive expansion of Sinclair Broadcast Group is unwelcome news for local TV viewers," Free Press president Craig Aaron said Monday, responding to the news Sinclair was buying Allbritton's TV stations and its D.C. regional cable news net. "The company's cookie-cutter approach to local news and repeated use of the airwaves to push a partisan agenda are well known. But the idea that one company should be allowed to control so many stations in so many markets is simply outrageous. What will it take for the FCC to wake up?"
Sinclair's right-ward political leanings haven't gone unnoticed in Little Rock, either. At the Arkansas Times, Max Brantley tallies up the times when Sinclair used its airwaves for political means:
It prevented its ABC affiliates from airing a 2003 Nightline episode that announced the names of military killed in the Iraq war. It saw the show as undermining the war effort. It pre-empted prime time programs on 62 stations to air a controversial and critical documentary on 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry. It fired its Washington bureau chief for criticizing the film. In 2010, it aired multiple times an infomercial slamming President Obama, airing it in critical swing states. In 2012, it aired a special on presidential campaign issues that was criticized as heavily slanted against President Obama. The corporation's political contributions have favored Republican candidates.
One thing to note: Sinclar isn't the only big media company stocking up on local television stations. Gannett Co., which owns KTHV-TV, Channel 11, in Little Rock, is buying Belo Corp. stations; Tribune Co. just reached a deal to buy Local TV Holdings LLC's 19 TV stations, including CBS affiliate KFSM-TV, Channel 5, and MyNetworkTV affiliate KXNW-TV, Channel 25, of Fort Smith/Fayetteville; Media General Inc. and New Young Broadcasting Holding Co. are combining their operations; Nexstar Broadcasting, controlling four -- four! -- stations in Little Rock, continues to test the limits of ownership rules throughout the country; and on and on and on.
Fewer big groups in control of more and more stations. This is the new reality in local television.
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