- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An intriguing and promising by-product has emerged from the $985 million sale of Allbritton Communications Co. and its seven TV stations to Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, a deal that Sinclair CEO David Smith deems a “once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Among Mr. Smith’s new broadcast assets is WJLA-TV (Channel 7), an ABC affiliate, and NewsChannel 8, a hybrid all-local news cable station — both in the Washington market.

“Being in Washington, D.C., and having 24-hour access to all politicians at all levels is a huge opportunity for us to capitalize on,” he said Tuesday.

One of those properties could have a greater destiny in a few months.

“The Sinclair Broadcast Group is definitely considering turning NewsChannel 8 into a 24-hour network national news network,” said veteran conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who purchased two TV stations in Michigan and South Carolina during a previous Sinclair transaction, and now hopes to add more stations from the recent Allbritton transactions.

He is a longtime contributor to Sinclair programming.

It is a practical idea. Even in a crowded market, the new network would have built-in content firepower and marketing from existing Sinclair properties.

The company owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 140 television stations in 72 markets, after pending transactions. Sinclair’s television group reaches approximately 35 percent of U.S. television households and includes Fox, ABC, MyTV, CW, CBS, NBC and Azteca affiliates.

Critics are already complaining about the sale.

Craig Aaron, president of the media reform watchdog Free Press, accused Sinclair of operating with a “partisan agenda” and a “cookie-cutter approach,” among other things. “What will it take for the FCC to wake up?” he asked.