Sinclair Broadcast Group Under Fire
In this Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, file photo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.’s head- quarters stands in Hunt Valley, Md. President Trump is jumping to the defense of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is under re following the rapid spread of a video showing anchors at its stations across the country reading a script criticizing “fake” news stories. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)
A video released last week revealed many anchors from different local TV stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group read an identical script to criticize biases and false news as a promotional campaign.
Sinclair is the largest operator of local TV stations in America. The company owns almost 200 stations in over 100 markets, including KOKH-TV and KOCB in Oklahoma City and KTUL in Tulsa. Sinclair is also in the process to acquire Tribune Media, which is the current owner of 42 more stations, including KFOR in Oklahoma City.
The script, as transcribed by ThinkProgress, says that “some media outlets” publish “fake stories” that “just aren’t true, without checking facts first.” It warns that some members of the media “use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda” to control what people think. The script also says “this is extremely dangerous to democracy.”
Deans and department chairs from 14 universities across the country have signed a letter to Sinclair to express their concern about the promotional campaign. The letter states that “Sinclair’s use of news personnel to deliver commentary” may erode “the trust that viewers put in their local television stations.”
Although the Mass Communication Department University of Central Oklahoma was not one of the universities to sign the letter, Department Chair Mary Carver “….” (trying to have interview with her).
UCO Mass Communication professor Desiree Hill said the words are of concern and derogatory to all media. Hill said she questioned which media Sinclair was criticizing, whether it be local media, national media, Fox News, CNN or print journalism.
“It casts a wide negative net that hurts all members of our profession,” Hill said.
“It can be scary going into the business knowing the way Sinclair operates and that they own a large amount of the stations I could potentially work for in the future,” professional media major Taylor Adams said.
Hill has worked in the broadcast industry for almost 30 years. She said she knows that many journalist have signed contracts which dictate what they can and cannot do within the company, so it gets difficult for them to speak up.
“The best newsrooms foster spirited conversations and debates. All voices are heard and decisions develop from there,” Hill said. “In the Sinclair model, voices are silenced regarding political topics, which has a detrimental effect on the journalism coming from Sinclair stations.”
Sinclair has doing things like this promotional campaign for many years. They have hired a former Trump campaign adviser, Boris Epshetyn to be their political analyst.
“Stations are required to carry his commentary, which, to no one’s surprise, is pro-Trump,” Hill said. “Like many journalism companies, most of the executives at the top are non-journalists. They did not come up in the business learning about a code of ethics.”
Hill said the choices Sinclair is making are making it increasingly difficult for her to recommend students to the company. However, if a student is hired, she advises them to keep the code of ethics close.
“Good journalists are not robots. They argue. They question. They have done their research,” Hill said. “There is nothing wrong with challenging leadership with a well-though-out argument.”