Sinclair Broadcast Group owns a growing number of local TV stations across the US, and it's come under fire previously for newsroom tactics dictated by its Maryland headquarters. But criticism reached new heights over the weekend when Deadspin stitched together a video showing dozens of anchors reciting the same script in which they criticize the national media over bias and fake news. See another mashup here via ThinkProgress. Here's a look at background and reaction:
- The order: CNN reported last month that the conservative-leaning Sinclair ordered anchors at local affiliates to read what CNN media writer Brian Stelter describes as something akin to "pro-Trump propaganda." His story recounts how many anchors chafed at the mandate, with one saying he "felt like a POW recording a message."
- Sinclair's defense: This is standard stuff, says Sinclair VP Scott Livingston. "Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry," he tells CNN. "This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting."
- The script: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the full transcript of the anchors' script. "The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," it reads in part. "More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories ... without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think' ... This is extremely dangerous to our democracy." The P-I reports that staffers at local Sinclair affiliate KOMO were upset with the order.
- Trump defends: "So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased," he tweeted Monday. "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
- 'State media': Criticism of Sinclair took off on Twitter and sample sentiment was on display at MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday. "It's state media, essentially," said Jon Meacham, per Mediaite. "Shoving propaganda down local anchors' throats," added Joe Scarborough.
- John Oliver: He took Sinclair to task for this kind of thing last summer, and he renewed the criticism in his latest show. Sinclair is a "brainwashed cult," he says, and that's especially worrisome given the company's reach, he adds. Sinclair currently owns 193 stations in 100 US markets and hopes to add dozens more with the pending acquisition of Tribune Media, according to the P-I.
- Pro-Trump segments: The stations also must regularly air segments such as the "Terrorism Alert Desk," per the New York Times, and pro-Trump commentaries by Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign adviser.
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