How America’s Biggest Broadcaster Is Using Local News to Boost Trump’s Agenda

April 2, 2018, 12:19 PM UTC

Has Sinclair Broadcast Group joined President Donald Trump’s war on so-called “fake news”?

Even if you haven’t heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group, chances are you’ve seen their news broadcasts. With 193 television stations across the U.S., Sinclair (SBGI) is the country’s largest broadcaster, and if it has its druthers it’ll soon be the proud owner of Tribune Media (TRCO), which will bring 40 more stations into the fold.

The broadcaster has previous been the subject of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in July 2017, and CNN reporting over the last year. But Sinclair may now be enjoying its most public moment yet thanks to a Deadspin supercut of dozens of Sinclair reporters reading the same script—almost word-for word—that the company recently sent out to its syndicates.

The script expresses concern about one-sided, biased, and false news — in a way that some say is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s war on “fake news” — and reiterates the script-reader’s station’s commitment to fair reporting. The full statement ends with reporters imploring viewers to police the station’s bias by leaving feedback online.

CNN first reported on this script at the beginning of March, but Deadspin‘s mash-up has thrown Sinclair’s tight management of its local stations into stark relief.

Sinclair stations have always been expected to air “must runs” distributed by the parent company. Some argue these have become more biased during the Trump administration. One recurring “must run” segment features commentary by former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn. The “Terrorism Alert Desk” is another centrally produced “must run” segment.

However, one former Sinclair employee told The New York Times that she could not recall an instance when local anchors were asked to read scripts distributed to the stations by Sinclair. In addition, one local anchor told CNN, “I feel bad because they’re seeing these people they’ve trusted for decades tell them things they know are essentially propaganda.”

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