President Trump supports Sinclair Broadcasting Group's 'false news' promo

Rosalie Gross
April 7, 2018

Sinclair Broadcast Group now owns more than 190 TV stations in the United States, and is trying to own even more through proposing to purchase Tribune Media.

The script includes mentions of "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country", and the "sharing of biased and false news" on social media and in "some media outlets" that publish "fake stories" without checking facts.

Deadspin's video stops at a line that it repeats again and again, to drive home the video's critical message: "This is extremely unsafe to our democracy".

Sinclair's pending purchase of Tribune would allow it to reach 72 percent of TV-owning households in the US.

News anchors who work for Sinclair Broadcast Group stations throughout the country have recorded the same promotional announcement that warns viewers about the perils of "fake news". Employees at Sinclair-owned stations often lack the support and protection of a union, so they lose their job if they don't tow the line and owe the station a massive chunk of their salary if they try to leave.

Norma Holland from 13WHAM News, a subsidiary of ABC, has spoken out publicly on Facebook about her struggle and anger after reading the script.

It's worth pointing out, Sinclair does not own any TV stations in Hawaii.

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Sinclair, the country's largest conglomerate of local TV news outlets, made the mouthful of a defense in an internal memo penned by vice president of news Scott Livingston. Sinclair's commentary, seen as echoing President Trump's talking points, comes just as it seeks help from the government. John Oliver discussed this on his show Last Week Tonight months ago, and commented on it today as it has resurfaced since the Deadspin post, calling the group a "brainwashed cult".

The video was widely circulated and caught the attention of news media professionals as well as celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel who shared the video to an even wider audience.

The company's conservative-leaning politics have come down to Sinclair's stations through "must runs" - stories local producers are told to air during their newscasts.

"I feel bad because they're seeing these people they've trusted for decades tell them things they know are essentially propaganda", one local anchor said.

So why, you may be wondering, would so many journalists willingly go along with such ham-fisted propagandizing? Sinclair employs Boris Ephshteyn, a former Trump aide, as its chief political analyst. For example, a December 2016 story by Politico said that The Trump campaign "struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage".

Journalists have a responsibility to serve as a bulwark against threats to a free press.

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