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FCC proposes $13.4M fine for TV-station owner Sinclair

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $13.4 million fine on TV-station owner Sinclair for not identifying paid programming as advertising.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is one of the country's largest owners of TV stations. It pays networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for the national news, shows and sports it airs on those stations and airs local news shows.

The FCC said Thursday that Sinclair's Salt Lake City station produced and broadcast news story-like programming during local news broadcasts and 30-minute TV programs for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and didn't label them as ads. The FCC says the offending ads aired more than 1,700 times across 64 Sinclair-owned TV stations and also for 13 other stations not owned by the company. The FCC said Sinclair apparently didn't tell those stations that it didn't own that it was providing an ad.

The Utah-based Huntsman Cancer Foundation raises funds for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a hospital in Salt Lake City.

The FCC's two Democratic commissioners dissented from the penalty on Sinclair, saying it was too small. Republicans are in the majority of the agency's leadership.

Sinclair, based in Hunt Valley, Maryland, has 30 days to contest the proposed fine or pay it. The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Sinclair is awaiting regulatory approval for its proposed takeover of rival Tribune Media. The Justice Department and the FCC must approve the deal. Critics say the FCC has paved the way for such TV-industry consolidation by relaxing ownership rules for broadcasters.

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