WPRI’S Parent Co. Nexstar Pumps Hundreds of Thousands into GOP Coffers, Ch-12 Exec is PAC Donor
Monday, December 10, 2018
biggest local television group in the United States, and like its rival Sinclair Broadcasting, it is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the political coffers of Congress — especially Republicans.
Recipients of Nextar’s donations include PACs like Trump Victory Committee, Team Ryan and McConnell for Majority Leader Committee.
In the 2016 cycle, Nexstar gave over 80 percent of its PAC donations to Republican-affiliated PACs and in 2018 GOP political PACs received 100% of Nexstar's PACs donations, according to to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Government.
According to Federal Election Commission reports, Nexstar’s CEO has donated six times as much to top-level Republican members of Congress than to Democrats over the past decade — regardless of which party controlled Congress.
The local Nexstar executive Patrick Wholey, General Manager of WPRI-12 in Providence, has been a donor to Nexstar PAC — the PAC that is the conduit for the donations from the media group to members of Congress.
Wholey refused to respond to questions about Nexstar’s donations to the GOP or his own political donations.
Presently, Nexstar Media Group claims it "is one of the largest local TV station operators in the country. With the reach of 171 full-power television stations in 100 markets addressing nearly 38.7% of US television households…” and it is about to get a lot bigger.
Nexstar is in the midst of buying Tribune Media Company for $6.4 billion — Tribune on its own is also one of the largest local television groups -- and the massive media consolidation has sparked some Congressional criticism.
“Democrats have already started to circle their wagons around Nexstar’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media, with Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, saying in a statement Monday that the merger “would undoubtedly lead to mass layoffs in newsrooms at a time when our free and diverse press is already under assault,” reports NBC news.
Ciclline’s claims about layoffs are affirmed by Nexstar investor documents that state, “Highly compelling financial transaction for shareholders of both companies …$160 million of readily achievable year one synergies.”
'Synergies' is the corporate code word for layoffs.
Combined, Nexstar will reach 39% of American households — the greatest reach of any of the local TV media group — about 50 percent greater than Sinclair, which reaches 25 percent of U.S. households.
According to investor relations documents the merger, “Creates largest pure-play broadcast television group with broad geographic reach and scale.”
And while Nexstar keeps consolidating, viewers are reducing their viewing of local television.
"Local TV news saw its audience decline across most time slots studied this past year. Financially, local TV companies generated less revenue in 2017 than in 2016, though this is consistent with a cyclical pattern in which revenue rises in election years and falls in non-election years,” according to a report by Pew Research released in July 2018.
“The average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the morning news time slot decreased 15% in 2017,” reports Pew. “Local TV average audience for the late night and early evening news time slots also declined (7% for both). The audience for the midday news time slot (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) declined 4%, while evening news remained relatively stable.”
The declining viewership has sparked in part the increase in news broadcasting — as an example WPRI-12 in the Providence market begins the morning broadcast at 4:30 am.
Pew Research Data
Regardless of who has controlled Congress over the past decade, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook has donated nearly $36,900 to members of Congress according to data published by the watchdog organization Open Secrets. Of Sook’s donations, Republican members of Congress received $31,900 — six times more than Democrats. Democrats received just $5,000 from Sook.
Sook’s donations went to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
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