The conservative, pro-Trump owners of a chain of local TV stations are facing a boycott after it emerged that they require news anchors to read scripts with conservative talking points.
Sinclair Broadcasting owns more than 190 stations nationwide, and is awaiting government approval to buy even more, expanding their reach from 40 percent to over 70 percent of the nation's households. The company owns ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox outlets, and the Sinclair branding is not always clear. Here is a full list of Sinclair stations.
Sinclair Broadcasting and "must run" segments
Over the weekend, Deadspin released a video showing dozens of Sinclair anchors reading the same script during their newscasts. “We're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country," the script read. "The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories … stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first.”
That led to #BoycottSinclair popping up on Twitter.
It was previously reported that the company requires its stations to air "must-run" segments during their newscasts that parrot Trump's views, including "Terrorism Alert Watch," and commentary by former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn. The company recently hired a former reporter for Russian propaganda network RT to do a report on the so-called "deep state."
“Sinclair’s probably the most dangerous company most people have never heard of,” said Michael Copps, the chairman of Federal Communications Commission under George W. Bush.
Have you already seen Sinclair Broadcasting's right-wing content?
During the 2016 presidential election, Sinclair stations "gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign" while airing stories on Hillary Clinton, a December Washington Post analysis showed. Sinclair broadcast 15 "exclusive" interviews with Trump but zero with Hillary Clinton. Most aired in crucial swing states during the election without any commentary or fact-checking. Areas covered by a Sinclair station ultimately went for Trump by 19 percentage points, the Post reported today.
"Sinclair is going way beyond the norm to dictate a branding strategy that is also a political platform," Samuel Freedman, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism told Newsweek. "It's basically cloning the Fox model of being a media company that bashes traditional reportorial journalism."
Sinclair has also added a website, Circa, to its portfolio. The Guardian reports it is considered "the new Breitbart" and is used by White House sources to leak stories favorable to President Trump.
If the government approves Sinclair's $3.9 billion purchase of the Tribune Company's 42 stations, it will reach 72 percent of American households. Federal regulations previously prevented any company from owning stations that reached more than 39 percent. Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — the man behind the repeal of net neutrality — has revived a loophole to allow the Sinclair sale.