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Originally published Monday, October 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

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Editorial: Media consolidation decimates KOMO 4

Lax FCC enforcement makes a mockery of regulatory intent to preserve and promote competition, localism and diversity of viewpoints in local TV news. Case in point: Sinclair Broadcast Group’s ownership of KOMO 4.

Seattle Times Editorial

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SEATTLE loses strong, local journalism every time the Federal Communications Commission fails to stop media consolidation.

Corporations such as Sinclair Broadcast Group and Gannett are amassing news stations at an alarming rate, including multiple broadcast licenses in the same market — a violation of FCC rules designed to preserve competition, localism and diverse viewpoints.

The effect on Seattle viewers is eerie.

Sinclair reportedly laid off nearly 20 employees after taking over Fisher Communications’ flagship station KOMO 4 in August. Another round of pink slips followed last week at Portland’s KATU.

Welcome to the Northwest, Sinclair. Decimating the soul of this city’s last locally owned commercial TV station is a heck of an introduction.

Those editors, satellite-truck operators, writers and producers are vital to keeping our community informed via the people’s airwaves, which stations are entrusted with to balance profit and public interest.

Broadcasters enjoyed record sales in 2012 from political advertisements. Instead of investing in what it has, Sinclair is building an empire.

As The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 20, Sinclair is skirting FCC rules barring cross-ownership by creating shell companies — also called “sidecars” — to operate multiple stations in a single market. They keep all profits.

Within two years, Sinclair has closed or pursued deals to increase its holdings from 58 to 162 stations — covering nearly 40 percent of the country’s audience.

The FCC turns a blind eye to Sinclair and its copycats.

Tribune — owner of KCPQ — just emerged from bankruptcy. Already, it’s using sidecars to purchase 20 stations for $2.7 billion.

Gannett laid off hundreds in August while simultaneously attempting a $1.5 billion takeover of KING and 19 other Belo-owned stations.

The FCC should block these pending deals. Enforce the rules.

Seattle’s journalism institutions are increasingly beholden to corporate owners with no connection to our community.

Without FCC intervention, expect further consolidation, job losses and a drop in local content. Seattle will suffer.

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