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Vox Sentences: FCC clears air for more Sinclair

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Sen. Al Franken is accused of sexual assault; the FCC relaxes longstanding media ownership regulations; Cambodia moves toward one-party rule.

Franken frames himself

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Senate Democrats now have their own sexual harassment scandal to contend with. [Washington Post / Amy B. Wang, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and Lindsey Bever]
  • Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota (a former cast member of Saturday Night Live) has been accused of sexual harassment by LA radio host Leeann Tweeden, and there's a very damning photo to underscore Tweeden’s complaints. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • In a post this morning, Tweeden said that while she and Franken were doing a USO tour to entertain troops overseas in 2006 (before Franken ran for Senate), they performed a skit during which Franken forcibly kissed her, despite her objections. [KABC / Leeann Tweeden]
  • That would have been bad enough, but Tweeden also released a photo of Franken pretending to grope her breasts through a Kevlar vest while she was sleeping. [KABC / Leeann Tweeden]
  • Franken has since apologized, saying there’s “no excuse” for his behavior, and said he supports an ethics investigation into his behavior. [Sam Stein via Twitter]
  • The revelations have rocked Congress, whose environment has been in the sexual harassment spotlight lately as a number of female lawmakers say they and interns have dealt with harassment and assault for decades, with no punishment for perpetrators. [NYT / Nicholas Fando]
  • It also underscores the fact that sexual misconduct has allegedly been perpetrated by men in both the Democratic and Republican parties, including Franken, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and President Donald Trump. [Vox / Ezra Klein]

If you see more bonkers Sinclair broadcasts on your local news channel, this is why

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The Federal Communications Commission narrowly voted to roll back media ownership regulations, a controversial move that will allow media companies to consolidate. [The Verge / Colin Lecher]
  • On a 3-2, party-line vote, the FCC voted to repeal a rule that prohibits a person or company from owning a daily newspaper and a radio or TV station that are in the same market, as well as a rule prohibiting cross-ownership of radio and TV stations. [The Hill / Harper Neidig]
  • The vote comes after significant lobbying by broadcasters and local TV stations, which say the rules make it difficult for them to compete and make money in an era of online news. [WSJ / John McKinnon]
  • It’s also part of a broader push under the Trump administration to roll back federal regulations. [Deadline / Dade Hayes]
  • The vote has been controversial because it clears the way for the conservative local news company Sinclair Broadcasting to buy Tribune Media. If that deal goes through, Sinclair would own 223 TV stations across the US, far more than any other company (it already owns 193 stations). [NBC News / Claire Atkinson]
  • This matters because a lot of Americans — about 46 percent — still get their news from local TV stations (that’s more than online news consumption). [Pew Research Center]
  • And Sinclair has a noticeably conservative bent; the company regularly sends out news “packages” to run on all of its local stations, including ones slamming the national media for "fake news," regular fearmongering updates about worldwide terrorism, and a 2016 segment floating the idea that black voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party historically was pro-slavery. [NYT / Sydney Ember]
  • But beyond Sinclair, the rule change simply means there could be far less competition and more of a top-down structure in local media markets. [Bloomberg]

Cambodia slides back into dictatorship

Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images
  • Cambodia’s highest court has dissolved the main political opposition party in the country, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. [Telegraph / Nicola Smith and Louise Burke]
  • This effectively clears the way for Prime Minister Hun Sen to run unopposed in next year's elections. Sen has already ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years, but the CNPR was increasingly posing a challenge to him, making significant polling gains in recent years. [BBC]
  • The United Nations and human rights advocates are calling the move the end of democracy in Cambodia. Over the years, Sen has gradually cracked down on newspapers and free press but has allowed the opposition party to remain intact. [Guardian / Oliver Holmes]
  • The ruling is a pretty stark clampdown: It also bans all of the more than 100 members of the CNRP from engaging in any political activities over the next five years. [Voice of America / David Boyle]
  • It follows the September jailing of opposition leader Kem Sokha, whom the government accused of treason and of working with the United States to bring down Sen’s government. [Al Jazeera]
  • Cambodia has been a democracy since 1993, after the brutal rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, in which Sen served as a commander. [Human Rights Watch]
  • Though he doesn’t like the US very much, Sen seems to like President Trump. During Trump’s recent visit to Asia, Sen spoke glowingly of Trump’s tendency toward American isolationism and resistance to getting involved with other countries over human rights concerns. [NYT / Julia Wallace]


  • In a hurricane flooding story that’s the exact opposite of Katrina, residents of one of Houston’s wealthiest neighborhoods say they were flooded out by the federal government to alleviate water level rise in the rest of the city. [Bloomberg / Shannon Sims]
  • With the emergence of Amazon, Seattle has become a tech boomtown. It’s also trying to confront the challenges of this growth head on, as housing and cost-of-living prices skyrocket. [The Atlantic / Ronald Brownstein]
  • People magazine has named Blake Shelton as its Sexiest Man Alive this year, and people are having none of it. Here’s a list of other, sexier suggestions. [W Magazine / Brooke Marine]
  • GOP leaders are now contemplating whether to ask current Alabama Sen. Luther Strange to resign and thus trigger a new special election, to save them from their snowballing Roy Moore fiasco. [Politico / Alex Isenstadt and Eliana Johnson]
  • Things are looking up for Amtrak, in that it recently recorded its lowest operating loss in many years, due to growing ridership. But the rail company still has a long way to go. [WSJ / Paul Berger]


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