New York (AFP) - Tribune Media said Thursday it was ending its proposed merger with the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, the biggest operator of local television in the United States and seen as supportive of President Donald Trump, scuppering a deal that would have turned Sinclair into a national news behemoth.
The $3.9 billion deal would have given Sinclair control of more than 200 local television stations broadcasting to 72 percent of the US population, and the announcement of the proposed merger in May 2017 raised concerns about Sinclair's market dominance.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was initially seen as favoring the union, which had the blessing of the Trump administration.
But it then demanded that Sinclair divest itself of some local stations in order not to dominate the market in certain areas.
In a bid to reassure regulators, Sinclair said it was willing to relinquish 23 stations but the FCC accused the local new giant of trying to retain control of several of them, and cited a lack of transparency in its plans.
The FCC sent a letter dated July 18 saying that the deal should be suspended until more convincing engagements could be agreed upon.
The Tribune Group on Thursday accused Sinclair of acting in bad faith and adopting an "unnecessarily aggressive" attitude toward regulators, and said it was taking Sinclair to court for breaching the agreement.
Sinclair raised hackles in March when it had all the anchors of its daily news shows across the country recite the exact same script, which adopted the tone and rhetoric of Trump, accusing other media outlets of spreading "biased and false news."
"This is extremely dangerous to our democracy," the scripted message said.
A survey by the Washington Post in December 2016 showed that the coverage by Sinclair-run news outlets was "disproportionately" favorable to Trump in the election year.