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Sinclair selling WYZZ to shell corporation Cunningham

Sinclair Broadcast Group is selling WYZZ-TV (43) to Cunningham Broadcasting for $22 million, according to an article in and an official filing with the FCC. The sale was necessary to comply with FCC ownership rules after Sinclair acquired WHOI-TV (19) from Barrington Broadcasting.

Cunningham Broadcasting has several ownership objections pending against it before the FCC. Local watchdog groups in other media markets as well as the Free Press organization accuse Cunningham of being a shell corporation for Sinclair — a company controlled by Sinclair and used solely to circumvent FCC media ownership rules.

Indeed, in their own filing, Sinclair states that “the majority stockholder of CBC [Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation] is the Carolyn C. Smith Cunningham Trust.” Carolyn Smith, along with her husband Julian Sinclair Smith, is a co-founder of Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the trust beneficiaries are her sons, who are also co-founders of Sinclair. Carolyn died in 2012.

Thus, media consolidation will deepen here in Central Illinois. We have five local commercial stations (WHOI 19, WEEK 25, WMBD 31, WYZZ 43, WAOE 59) which heretofore have been owned by five separate companies but operated by only two companies (Granite Broadcasting Corporation, which operates WHOI, WEEK, and WAOE; and Nexstar Broadcasting Group, which operates WMBD and WYZZ). Now two of those stations — WHOI and WYZZ — are going to be controlled, if not outright owned, by the same company.

Media consolidation is bad. As a perfect case in point, I’ll bet you didn’t know any of the information in this post before I just shared it with you. If we had more media diversity, you would have known about it long before now. But because the Journal Star has had its staff decimated by Gatehouse Media, and because there are only two television news organizations in town — and they both have ties to Sinclair now, by the way — you won’t hear about it. (Well, maybe the paper will mention it in a couple weeks buried in one of Steve Tarter’s columns, especially since I’ve published it on my blog. But don’t count on it. Generally speaking, you’ll never hear about it.)

There are many other things you don’t (and won’t) hear about, because when newsrooms shrink and reporters are let go in the name of efficiency, it means there are fewer people around to act as watchdogs for the public. Do you know how the Journal Star gets its news about Peoria Park District board meetings now? The Park District director (Bonnie Noble) writes up a summary and sends it in. Bet you didn’t know that, either. That’s what passes as “reporting” these days in our fair city. Take a look back through the Park District’s minutes and see how many of them indicate “Press Present: None.” The Park District — a municipal organization with a $15+ million property tax levy — and not a single member of the press attends their meetings to see how they’re spending our money or conducting business.

But I digress.

The sale of WYZZ to Cunningham should be opposed by this community. Other communities have filed official and unofficial protests with the FCC, and have started online petition drives. Here in Peoria, we haven’t even heard about it.

The procedures for filing formal and informal objections to the sale (or “assignment” in legalese) of a TV license are available from the FCC website here.

4 comments to Sinclair selling WYZZ to shell corporation Cunningham

  • mazr

    C.J., I said a while back that this paper is nothing more than a cheerleader for the City (not including Matt Buedel). I had no idea that it went to the lengths of printing up city-provided press releases. What a joke and a sad commentary on our only local paper. This would be a nice time for Luciano to try and play the role of a Rick Baker.

  • mbd

    You do realize that this are privately owned companies right? They exist to make money. Local tv stations are consolidating because they are barely staying afloat. The two biggest ones WEEK and WMBD are able to maintain themselves but WAOE and WYZZ couldnt so they had no choice but to enter into Joint services agreements. They still report the news to the best of their ability. You people do not understand how the real world works. Yes in a perfect world all the stations would be independent but the worlds not perfect.

  • mbd

    this isnt just happening in peoria either.

  • J

    People like MBD can cry about consolidation all they want. There’s no doubt that Peoria would have had an uphill battle if WYZZ & WAOE were to function separately. But in my opinion, WHOI could have continued to do good on it’s own had it remained under the ownership of Gray Broadcasting.

    It’s interesting how the struggling and slightly smaller Rockford DMA has 3 separate news productions, and all 3 are broadcasting in HD. Not only that, but the QC & Springfield area stations also still have their 3 remaining competitors and they’re ALL broadcasting news in HD. Yet neither of the 2 remaining competitors in Peoria are broadcasting news in HD as of now.

    If there was enough money in Rockford to maintain 3 stations and fully upgrade them, than I’m sure there should be enough money to split between the 2 Peoria entities that are running the show.

    So yeah, they’re definitely making money. But when they cross the line where they’re no longer serving the public, that’s when it becomes pathetic & wrong. And the Peoria stations are now there. As a viewer, it pains me to see what corporate greed has done to the Peoria media market, and it hurts to know there’s nothing we can do but continue to watch time stagnate & decline.

    So don’t play the financial card mbd. I know better. Anybody who looks at similarly-sized markets will know exactly where I’m coming from. BTW, do you happen to be Mark DeSantis Incognito?