The Sinclair Broadcasting Group's effort to create a conservative television juggernaut has ended in a failure and a record $48 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission. The fine—which the FCC says is the largest it has ever levied against a broadcaster—is largely the result of the conservative-leaning company's conduct during its attempt to acquire rival Tribune Media, the AP reports. The merger, which Tribune Media called off in 2018, would have given Sinclair control of 215 local TV stations, extending its reach across America. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Wednesday that Sinclair's conduct was "completely unacceptable," though he did not provide further details.
The FCC said Sinclair has agreed to "abide by a strict compliance plan in order to close three open investigations," including one into whether its proposed sales of some stations to comply with regulations were a sham. The fine, double the previous record, also closes an investigation of Sinclair's failure to identify paid programming as advertising. With the Tribune merger, Sinclair had hoped to create a "new Fox News," the New York Times reports. President Trump said in 2018 that it "would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People." Pai said Wednesday that he "disagree[s] with those who, for transparently political reasons, demand that we revoke Sinclair’s licenses. While they don't like what they perceive to be the broadcaster's viewpoints, the First Amendment still applies around here," he said. (Read more Sinclair Broadcast Group stories.)