Sinclair Broadcasting, already faced a backlash after Deadspin.com released an edited video of anchors reading, in unison, a prepared statement about fake news, finds itself again being criticized over an aid it aired on its stations urging viewers to oppose a proposed merger between the company and Tribune media. The ad was created by a group called Allied Progress, a liberal consumer watchdog group.
While Sinclair did air the critical commercial in its entirety, a move they said was done in the interest of fairness and to present “both sides of issues,” the company added messages of its own at the beginning and end of the ad, calling it misleading and accusing it of a liberal bias. The ad played in four markets.
In the ad, Allied Progress calls on viewers to call the Federal Communications Commission and oppose Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune. The ad cites the fact that if Sinclair were to acquire Tribune, they would have access to over one-third of all U.S. households. The merger is already being held up by federal officials over antitrust concerns.
Allied Progress Executive Director, Karl Frisch claimed he was not told in advance of Sinclair’s additions to the advertisement and cited the extra commentary as evidence of Sinclair’s partiality. The original script prepared by Sinclair and read by anchors at its stations all over the country denounces a perceived bias in the mainstream media and condemns what it called “fake stories” published by media outlets that “just aren’t true” and that are published “without checking facts first.”
“[Anchor](B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first,” part of the script reads.
“[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.”
Sinclair Media officials are also being criticized for calling print media “left wing” and “meaningless.”
The company defended the script that anchors were made to read last month. 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.
President Trump also defended the company recently. “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 on Twitter.