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Congress grills Sinclair on ‘must-run’ content ahead of merger

Members of Congress are pushing Sinclair on the possible effects of its pending merger with Tribune Media, including whether the media company would continue to push controversial “must-run segments.”

In a letter sent to the broadcaster, 49 members of Congress, led by Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), underscored the scale of the deal and pressed Sinclair to explain how its $4 billion merger would benefit Americans.

“Should the merger go through, the combined company would reach 72 percent of American homes, which is well above the cap that Congress imposed in order to protect viewpoint diversity and localism,” they wrote.

“As such, we would like to review additional information about why Sinclair believes this merger would be in the public interest, as well as the impact it would have on the broader media landscape,” it continued.

If the merger is successful, Sinclair will become the largest broadcaster in the U.S., reaching 72 percent of all Americans through its wide network of local stations across the country.

The lawmakers asked that Sinclair provide clarification on how the jobs of current Tribune employees would be affected and how Sinclair would handle its approach to new local markets, and also questioned whether Sinclair would continue its controversial “must-run” segments.

The segments have drawn criticism from the likes of late-night HBO host John Oliver, who in July charged that the must-run segments often operate as on-air op-eds with conservative political positions that align with the ideology of Sinclair’s ownership.

The lawmakers set a Nov. 10 deadline for Sinclair to respond by.