by Max Brantley
The current owner, Allbritton, has struck a deal to sell its TV stations, including KATV, to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.
Allbritton will hang onto Politico.
Allbritton's ownership has been mostly invisible to Arkansas at large, but it was believed to have influenced General Manager Dale Nicholson's decision to do on-air endorsements of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000.
If anything, Sinclair has more of a reputation for supporting conservative politics. It prevented its ABC affiliates from airing a 2003 Nightline episode that announced the names of military killed in the Iraq war. It saw the show as undermining the war effort. It pre-empted prime time programs on 62 stations to air a controversial and critical documentary on 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry. It fired its Washington bureau chief for criticizing the film. In 2010, it aired multiple times an infomercial slamming President Obama, airing it in critical swing states. In 2012, it aired a special on presidential campaign issues that was criticized as heavily slanted against President Obama. The corporation's political contributions have favored Republican candidates.
Here's one rundown of Sinclair's political history.
The FCC must approve the deal, but the parties hope to close it by the end of the year.
In reporting the news, KATV added this note on-line:
As a note to our viewers, KATV wants to emphasize that this is only a behind-the-scenes business matter happening at the corporate level. KATV will continue to bring you the best local news, weather and sports coverage you have counted on us to provide for more than 50 years.
Let's hope that turns out to be true. Sinclair history offers some reason for concern.