Local newscasts nationwide last week decried “fake” and “one-sided” reporting by reading from a shared script written by one of the most powerful broadcasters in America.
The so-called “must-run” script, which local stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group were required to read, according to several reports, blasts “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,” the script continues, according to a copy published Friday by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first,” an anchor adds, according to the script. Another anchor continues: “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.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns more television stations than any other broadcaster in the country, and stands to spread its influence even more if the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission approve a massive merger with Tribune Media.
“At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” one unnamed television anchor at a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned station told CNN earlier this month, referring to the “one-sided news” script.
“They’re certainly not happy about it,” an unnamed KOMO employee told the Post-Intelligencer Friday, referring to their colleagues.
The Philadelphia Inquirer collected video of four separate Sinclair-owned Pennsylvania news stations — WHP, WJAC, WOLF and WJAC — reading the script on March 23, March 23, March 24 and March 28, respectively.
Timothy Burke compiled a few examples in a particularly jarring seconds-long clip:
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 31, 2018
CNN reported, citing internal Sinclair documents, that Sinclair stations were instructed to run the segments frequently, “to create maximum reach and frequency,” and during “news time, not commercial time.”
The same report noted that the required script was nearly identical to one Sinclair’s senior vice president’s of news, Scott Livingston, read on air a year ago.
“Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry,” Livingston told CNN in a statement. “This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media [Livingston’s emphasis], and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting. This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”
The broadcaster has aligned itself with the Trump administration: In addition to the “one-sided news” script featured last week, Sinclair stations are also required to run political commentary from the network’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn. Epshteyn previously worked for the Trump White House and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The Post-Intelligencer noted that another must-run segment aired on KOMO last week featured former Trump White House official Sebastian Gorka. (During a panel on Sinclair-owned WJLA in October, Gorka lamented “black Africans” killing each other “by the bushel” in Chicago.)
Gorka, Post-Intelligencer reported, spoke about an alleged “deep state” attempting to undermine the Trump presidency. The segment’s producer, according to the report, was Kristine Frazao, who before working for Sinclair was a reporter and anchor for the Russian state-owned network RT.