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The scariest thing you never heard of

Justin Yost, Editorial Writer

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A viral video has made the rounds via Deadspin, showing many local news anchors reading from the exact same script word for word. The script was given to them by a company you probably hadn’t heard of before the viral video, and probably still don’t know what it is or what they do.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is America’s largest local TV owner, which owns more than 200, and trying to buy more, local TV stations. The right-leaning TV company has been under fire for a while, but more so recently due to the viral video, for injecting politics into their local broadcasts for making anchors use “must run” scripts sent by the parent company. More than a year ago, John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, did a 15 minute segment about the company.

The company has close ties to the Trump administration, and Democrats are wading in to the reasons and say the group is getting preferential treatment. Donald Trump is very quick to attack any media outlet that shows him in a bad light. But somehow he was quicker to come to the defense of Sinclair and tweet his support shortly after the Deadspin video went viral. Many have seen that this tweet has obvious bias towards the company, but also toward Sinclair’s pending $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune.

CNN more recently reported on the fact Sinclair makes anchors read a Donald Trumpian promo script attacking “fake news and the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” Sinclair is fighting back against CNN by posting a video on all of its local a stations’ websites attacking CNN for being hypocritical and dishonest. It was posted the day after the CNN report. Brian Stelter, CNN’s media pundit who first reported about Sinclair, has since responded via a tweet, “There’s a huge difference between my coverage and Sinclair’s mandatory promos. No one tells me what to say. But these anchors were told exactly what to say.”

Some local stations have reportedly chafed at the idea of pro-Trump “must run” packages. Sinclair management says the packages are necessary to provide viewers with diverse viewpoints countering the leanings of other media outlets. Sinclair has a history of airing controversial material, for which it has been sanctioned in the past.

Justin Simmons gave notice at KHGI TV in Kearny Nebraska on March 26. This was just after they received word anchors would be told to read the controversial promo that went viral. Simmons told CNNMoney that he had been concerned about Sinclair’s corporate mandates for the past year and a half,
and that the promos were the final straw. He said his feelings are shared by others at his station, but didn’t want to say anything to protect his colleagues.

Simmons is just one of many across the nation who are upset with the obvious, and almost state-run like way, Sinclair runs their stations. This is something everyone should be scared of. This is something that only countries like Russia and North Korea do. I applaud Justin Simmons and anyone else who is making a stand.

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The scariest thing you never heard of