Sinclair Broadcasting group has vast influence over local news stations

Michele Moreno
April 4, 2018

It was reported last week that employees at KOMO, a Seattle-based station, were unhappy with the Sinclair script, with one newsroom employee stating that it felt like "a forced thing". Some looked like hostages reading a script for their captors. But its lead has dwindled in recent years at 11 p.m., which could have been caused by a variety of factors other than Sinclair's ownership.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" did a lengthy segment on Burke's Deadspin video Monday, showing the words being repeated by several anchors. CNN also detailed the must-run segments earlier in March. "Yeah, nothing says we value independent media like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult", Oliver quipped.

The controversy comes at a critical time for Sinclair. When confronted about the move, Sinclair's vice president of news, Scott Livingston, told Politico that the company had offered a similar deal to Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton, but claimed Clinton had declined the opportunity. If completed, the merger would give Sinclair direct access to about 70 percent of the TV households in the nation, by far the most by one company. The deal still requires the approval of federal regulators. Sinclair is a television broadcasting company that owns or operates 193 USA television stations and 614 channels. "Sinclair Broadcast will also pull news coverage on those stations in a more conservative direction and explore giving full rein to those beliefs on a national platform". "If the FCC allows this, there's nothing to stop [other companies] from getting bigger and editorializing on their local newscasts".

"The critics are now upset about our well-researched journalistic initiative focused on fair and objective reporting", Livingston said in an internal memo on Monday, published by CNN.

However, the campaign itself didn't offer such specific examples to viewers. "It illustrates a story that in some cases can read like a conspiracy theory".

The reluctance to speak out stems largely from the fact that journalists at Sinclair-owned outlets are typically bound by strict contracts and punished if they push back, speak out, or try to leave, according to many current and former employees.

DIERKING: At Local 12, it's our responsibility to report and pursue the truth.

The Columbia Journalism Review characterized Sinclair's policies of influencing local stations as an "Orwellian attack on the press". The firm broadcasts free over-the-air programming, such as network provided programs, locally-produced news, local sporting events, programming from program service arrangements, syndicated entertainment programs, and internally originated programming to television viewing audiences in the communities through various local television stations.

Neither the station nor Sinclair responded to BuzzFeed News' request for more information, and the circumstances and extent of the station's refusal to air the message remained unclear Monday. "Rather, we stayed true to our commitment to provide our Madison area viewers local news, weather and sports of interest to them". The headline was: "How America's Leading Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump's War On The Media".

Other reports by Insurance News

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