Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Monday a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media, in a major consolidation of local television operators in the United States.
The deal gives Sinclair some 233 television stations in 108 markets, adding the 42 operated by Tribune Media including large stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
If approved by regulators, the deal would end the run of Tribune Media, which was part of the media conglomerate Tribune Co. broken up in 2014 into television and publishing units.
“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” said Chris Ripley, president and chief executive of Sinclair.
“The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets.”
The deal became possible under a loosening of antitrust regulations this year kept a single company from controlling stations reaching more than 39 percent of the US population.
Critics of the tie-up, which had been reported for weeks, have argued the deal is a boon for Sinclair, which had unique access to President Donald Trump during his 2016 election campaign.
“It’s a scandal,” said Craig Aaron of the consumer group Free Press.
“Sinclair — the Trump-favoring broadcast mega-chain — gets some… rules changed and expects others to be erased. All so that Sinclair can air its cookie-cutter newscasts to nearly 70 percent of the country’s population in local markets across the country.”
FCC officials argued the regulations, which aim to ensure diverse media voices, should be modified to take into account the digital transformation of television.
Some reports said Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. had expressed interest in Tribune Media.
In 2014, Tribune was broken into two separate companies, with the publishing division later renamed Tronc.
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