Sinclair Broadcast Group is facing heavy criticism for mandatory readings of scripts it has made news anchors at local television stations read denouncing what it calls “fake stories” published by media outlets that “just aren’t true” and that are published “without checking facts first.”
The country’s largest broadcaster, Sinclair owns and operates 193 television stations across the country. It is currently in negotiations to purchase Tribune Media in a $3.9 billion deal. The merger is being held up by federal officials over antitrust concerns.
Sinclair is owned by the Smith of Hunt Valley, Maryland and in recent years the company has made mandatory programming decisions that local anchors and stations have decried as right-wing.
The latest script however, criticizing what it calls fake news has raised concerns because it seems to echo President Trump’s attacks on the media for the publishing of “fake news.”
“But we’re concerned about 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 reads.
“[Anchor](B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.”
“[Anchor](A) 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.”
Sports website Deadspin published a mashup of all the anchors across the country that have the read script so far.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 31, 2018
Sinclair has defended its decision. Scott Livingston, the company’s senior vice president of news said their stations “keep our audiences trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”
“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” he added.
The President also defended the company in a tweet Monday morning. “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke,” he wrote.