Six of the biggest broadcast companies in the country have reached a settlement with the Department of Justice over claims they corrupted the ad market by sharing private information with their competitors. The DOJ’s lawsuit alleges that the companies worked together to manipulate advertisers by sharing ad sales data, allowing the companies to have greater leverage over advertisers when negotiating deals. “The unlawful exchange of competitively sensitive information allowed these television broadcast companies to disrupt the normal competitive process of spot advertising in markets across the United States,” Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, said in a statement.
The settlement forbids the companies from sharing private information about ad sales for seven years, but does not require the companies to pay any penalty or admit that any law was violated. Among the six companies is Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which owns or operates 130 television stations across 87 markets. In 2017, it reported revenue in excess of $2.7 billion. Together the companies brought in almost $6 billion in 2017 alone.