The Law Offices of Peter Miller of Little Rock is the plaintiff in a class action antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Maryland against Sinclair Broadcast, Tribune Media and Tribune Broadcasting for allegedly conspiring to fix advertising prices.
The lawsuit says instead of competing, the defendants shared information and fixed prices to stifle competition. Sinclair, the suit says, owns 193 stations in 90 cities (including KATV in Little Rock) and Tribune owns 43 stations (including KFSM in Fort Smith-Fayetteville). The companies have been trying to merge, but have been stymied so far by the Federal Communication Commission because of concerns about excessive ownership of media.
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The suit says the alleged price-fixing was a response to slowing revenue tied to the rise of digital advertising.
One response to this reduction in revenue growth has been to seek to achieve economies of scale and expand respective customer bases via mergers with and acquisitions of other broadcast television companies.
The suit, filed for Miller by the national class action law firm Kessler Topaz Melzer and Check (a periodic player in Arkansas judicial races), says the pricing actions date back to 2016. The suit broadly describes changing business circumstances in broadcasting and amounts to an attack on the Sinclair-Tribune effort to dominate the broadcast market in the U.S. It notes the Justice Department has also been investigating the issue.
I can’t find a reaction from the defendants in web news coverage, but I expect them to deny the allegation and, as they say, defend vigorously.
Miller, the suit said, has been a purchaser of TV ads during the time in question. There’s an enormous amount of money at issue. The companies’ gross revenue is over $4 billion.