The parent company of KECI, a local television station in Missoula, has been purchased by conservative local news operator Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Sinclair announced Friday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the stock of Bonten Media Group Holdings, Inc. for $240 million.
Bonten owns 14 television stations in eight markets, which reach approximately 1 percent of U.S. TV households. In Montana, Bonten owns KECI in Missoula, KTVM in Butte and Bozeman and KCFW in Kalispell, which are all NBC affiliates.
Sinclair Broadcasting has earned a reputation as a conservative-leaning news operator. Last week, the company announced that President Donald Trump's ex-spokesman Boris Epshteyn would be its new chief political analyst. It was announced that in that role, he would be appearing across 173 stations that Sinclair owns or operates across the country.
According to a report from Politico, in 2016, Sinclair struck a deal to broadcast Trump interviews without commentary in exchange for more access to the candidate. Sinclair later asserted that the Politico report was inaccurate and that it doesn't give preferential treatment to candidates from either party.
However, the Baltimore-based company is well-known for broadcasting conservative documentaries and other programming, according to Variety magazine. Sinclair is the nation's largest TV station owner when measured by the number of stations. The company, which is publicly traded, now will own 191 television stations in 89 markets, broadcasting 551 channels.
“We look forward to welcoming the Bonten employees into the Sinclair family and are pleased to be growing our regional presence in several states where we already operate,” said Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair, in a statement. “We believe our economies of scale help us bring improvements to small market stations, including investments in news, other quality local programming, and multicast opportunities with our emerging networks of Comet, Charge! and TBD.”
Tamy Wagner, KECI's general manager, declined to comment, saying the station would let Sinclair handle any media inquiries.
KPAX, the local CBS affiliate, is owned by Cordillera Communications, a division of Evening Post Industries of South Carolina.
KTMF, the local ABC/FOX affiliate, is owned by Cowles Company out of Spokane, Washington.