Sinclair Broadcast Group: What you need to know

Tonya Becker
April 7, 2018

A major USA broadcasting company is under fire for having its local TV stations air a message that echoes President Donald Trump's criticism of "fake" news stories.

But President Donald Trump defended Sinclair in a tweet Monday, saying: "So amusing to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased".

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy and other conservative leaders like Michael Reagan and Tom DeLay have warned that federal approval of Sinclair's merger with Tribune would allow major liberal networks like NBC, CBS, and ABC to buy up a massive number of local broadcast television stations, giving them direct control over local news coverage with the ability to influence public opinion. "This is extremely risky to democracy".

The internet lit up over the weekend after videos showed dozens of local newscasters across the country using the same script to criticize the news industry.

Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the USA, but it's not just its size that makes it influential, it's also how the U.S. audience views local news compared to other media.

President Donald Trump weighed in on the Sinclair anti-fake news script in a tweet Monday, defending Sinclair.

This is not the first time the Sinclair group has pushed its own agenda on the individual news stations.

INSKEEP: Yeah. We don't know that that is the reason why Sinclair would have been so supportive of President Trump by any means, but we do know that they're supporting President Trump, and the president is being supportive of them. As CNNMoney reported in early March, Sinclair Broadcast Group sent the script and directions to station news directors stating that "the 60- and 75-second spots should run frequently 'to create maximum reach and frequency'". Researchers Gregory Martin and Josh McCrain recently published a paper that showed Sinclair-owned stations focused more on national news, which tends to be more politically charged.

But instructing local TV anchors to read a script like this in their own voices is a new development.

Most of Sinclair's stations are CNN affiliates - meaning CNN shares content and resources with them and vice versa. The site posted it on Twitter - it had more than 7 million views midday Monday - and its other social media pages Saturday and saw it replayed on HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Sunday. "It's basically cloning the Fox model of being a media company that bashes traditional reportorial journalism".

Sinclair is one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country.

The scripted promo is raising tension among journalists who work for the Sinclair Company, one investigative reporter on the condition of anonymity told CNN Money: "It sickens me the way this company is encroaching upon trusted news brands in rural markets,".

Journalists at Sinclair stations have been forced to run right-leaning segments for years.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., expressed his concerns in a letter to Smith.

The Democratic lawmakers also noted that Trump reportedly discussed potential FCC rule changes in a meeting with Sinclair's executive chairman and said that Pai or his staff "have met with Sinclair representatives on numerous occasions".

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