Sinclair’s plans for world domination accelerates while the rest of broadcasting industry stays silent
By now, everyone knows Sinclair Broadcasting has a right-wing bent in its newscasts, and panders to the Trump administration.
But what they’re doing may put the nail in the coffin of local television- and linear television in general.
Sinclair recently ordered its news stations to read a script from corporate headquarters in suburban Baltimore regarding “their pledge” to combat “fake news” – word-for-word:
Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that _______ produces.
(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.
(B) At ______ it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to _______.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.
Sports website Deadspin complied anchors saying the template statement and it went viral.
And yes, this nonsense is soon coming to Chicago’s Very Own WGN-TV as Sinclair is trying to buy its owner, Tribune Media. I say trying, because they “refiled” paperwork with the FCC. Again.
Sinclair owns and/or operates more than 150 TV stations across the country, including in almost every Illinois market: Peoria/Bloomington (WHOI/WYZZ – the latter operated by Nexstar), Champaign-Springfield-Decatur (WICS-WICD-WRSP-WBUI-WCCU), St. Louis (KDNL, with Tribune owning KTVI and KPLR), Quincy (KHOA), and Harrisburg IL-Pacduah Ky. (KBSI-WDKA).
Only Rockford doesn’t have any Sinclair or Tribune Broadcasting stations. Lucky them, I guess.
Reaction to the controversy has been overwhelmingly negative, with many viewers vowing to boycott the stations:
I'm sorry, ABC WICS Channel 20 in Springfield IL., but you have lost 9 watchers as of today, with more to follow because you are Sinclair-owned. .@wics_abc20
— Tom Kidd (@FabulousThomasJ) April 3, 2018
Celebrities such as Alyssa Milano, Joss Whedon, Jimmy Kimmel and House Of Cards creator Beau Williamson weighed in with their criticism. And Democrat politicians are also taking notice, with one Kentucky congressional candidate pulling ads from Sinclair’s Lexington Fox affiliate WDKY, and one Cincinnati city council member stating he would no longer watch Sinclair’s Cincinnati CBS affiliate, WKRC.
Well-known former WKRC newscaster Nick Clooney, father of actor George Clooney and son of the late singer Rosemary Clooney told the Cincinnati Enquirer: “I have no idea what these folks are doing for a living, but it isn’t news.”
Notably silent are other broadcast groups and trade organizations, such as the National Association of Broadcasters. And it turns out the President has their back – in a tweet Monday morning, he ripped into those criticizing the video – praising Sinclair and slamming CNN and NBC as “fake news” outlets and did so again Tuesday morning.
You have to wonder if Sinclair is really going through with this plan to alienate audiences and risk their relationships with the Big Three networks with this move. And this may have ramifications not only for Sinclair stations but the entire broadcasting industry. For one, viewers – young ones in particular – the majority of whom are not Trump fans, may tune out of their favorite network primetime show on their Sinclair station and watch on a streaming service, taking away rating points.
And local TV news already is having trouble attracting young viewers as it is, and this may give them another reason not to tune in. The cable news networks who air this propaganda already skew old to dead.
Another red flag is Sinclair’s criticism of CBS, NBC, and ABC could come back to bite them, noting most Sinclair stations are affiliates of the three networks. Throwing shade at your business partner because of perceived “liberal bias” in their network newscasts isn’t a wise move as the network-affiliate relationship is already strained over a number of issues.
Given this stunt, you might wonder what else Sinclair has up its sleeve – for one, Sinclair could force its ABC affiliates not to air black-ish (Sinclair already instructed stations in 2004 not to air a Nightline special paying tribute to the soldiers who died during the Iraq war) or pre-empt Black Lightning on its CW affiliates because the company apparently doesn’t agree with both shows’ message regarding issues involving the black community. Already, ABC was forced to shelve an episode of black-ish dealing with NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem – guessing due to potential advertiser and affiliate concerns.
Think I’m kidding? Back in the 1950s and 1960s, many Southern affiliates chaffed at the networks’ handling of civil rights stories on their newscasts. NBC affiliate WLBT in Jackson, Miss. – then known for its intolerance of African-Americans, blacked out civil rights stories during NBC’s Today and the Huntley-Brinkley Report, largely pretending it was “cable issues” when it was really censorship because the reports ran counter to its pro-segregationist point of view. Raleigh’s WRAL jumped from NBC to ABC in 1962 for the same reason (after a 31-year stint with CBS, WRAL returned to NBC’s fold in 2016.)
And WRAL once gave time every night to future conservative North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, even pre-empting the last fifteen minutes of ABC’s evening newscast. Helms often railed against civil rights.
In 1971, WLBT’s owner lost its license after a lengthy battle with the FCC due to rampant racism the station was accused of.
Given their far-right leanings, you wonder if Sinclair would give a fair shake to Chicago’s black community, which many conservative outlets have slammed, mocked, or criticized. As everyone knows, Trump uses Chicago as a code word for “black people” whenever he complains about urban violence using Chicago’s gun violence epidemic as a backdrop. WGN has actually done a good job coverage urban issues – including the re-opening of the Carter Woodson Library in the Washington Heights neighborhood on the South Side.
But there’s no doubt this type of reporting would vanish completely with Sinclair taking over – especially now with Trump’s seal of approval. Instead of segments about local people, places, and things, we’ll have idiotic junk such as “Bottom Line With Boris”. With this scripted propaganda running concurrently, Sinclair has no respect for their viewers and thinks they’re stupid.
And in the picture above is KGBT, the CBS affiliate in the Harlingen-McAllen-Brownsville Tx. market, better known as the Rio Grande Valley. No doubt the big issue facing the market is Trump’s border wall as the area has a large Latino population and is located adjacent to the Mexican border. You can guess what side of the issue Sinclair falls on.
It’s a shame Sinclair is putting politics over public service – after all, the latter is what local television is all about. Since it is a now officially a mouthpiece for the authoritarian Trump administration, Sinclair might as well become another useless cable channel. The FCC under Ajit Pai are aiding and abetting Sinclair by relaxing the ownership rules and scamming via the UHF discount – so Sinclair can buy more stations.
As more and more stations are benefiting from retransmission consent (a term meaning cable and satellite operators pay the stations to carry their signal) and political advertising, owners now feel they are no longer dependent on ratings to sell advertising and couldn’t care less what content they put on the air, whether if it Roseanne Barr or the Boris guy.
The television business is a joke. But it just fits like a glove for Sinclair.