The conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group owns more television stations than any other broadcaster in the U.S. That ownership means it can dominate and set the agenda for local news channels seen by millions of people, every day, across the country.
In rather horrifying (and very Orwellian) fashion, the Trump-supporting conglomerate this week forced all of its newscasters to mouth an identical script denouncing “fake news,” in an effort to cast doubt on legitimate journalism and foster the Trump Administration’s agenda:
The so-called “must run” script, which local stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group were required to read, according to several reports, blasts “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
The Sinclair Group has a long history of interjecting right-wing propaganda into its local affiliates’ newscasts. This is not some altruistic effort on the part of a kind and gentle media conglomerate to extol the virtues of unbiased broadcasting. To the contrary, its purpose and intent was the exact opposite—it was meant to assist the Trump Administration in its effort to paint all negative news stories about it as “fake news” and blunt or negate the impact of reports criticizing Trump and his actions:
The broadcaster has aligned itself with the Trump administration: In addition to the “one-sided news” script featured last week, Sinclair stations are also required to run political commentary from the network’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn. Epshteyn previously worked for the Trump White House and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Here is the script:
“Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written,” the instructions say. “This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience.”
The promos begin with one or two anchors introducing themselves and saying “I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
Then the media bashing begins.
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the script says. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
The newscasters from Sinclair’s affiliates all knew how deceptive and underhanded this was, and from all reports were uniformly against what they were being forced to do. But to keep their jobs, they had no choice:
“At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” one unnamed television anchor at a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned station told CNN earlier this month, referring to the “one-sided news” script.
“They’re certainly not happy about it,” an unnamed KOMO employee told the Post-Intelligencer Friday, referring to their colleagues.
Here is a particularly creepy video compiling several Sinclair outlets’ newscasters mouthing the script they were forced to say:
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 31, 2018
From Think Progress, another disturbing compilation of anchors forced to parrot Sinclair propaganda:
Last week Sinclair affiliates were also forced to run Trump propaganda featuring former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka expounding on the theory that an imaginary “deep state” was working to undermine the Trump Administration. The segment was produced by a former reporter and anchor for Russian state television, RT network.
This is what the unchecked corporate domination of our media has led to.
If it doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should. The purpose here is to erode Americans’ faith in journalism as an institution. It is constantly echoed by Trump himself in his attacks on CNN, the New York Times, and (just today) the Washington Post. Once that is accomplished– once Americans are trained to reflexively disbelieve what their own legitimate media sources are telling them– then all restraints on the wholesale abuse of political power are swept away.
Watch that video again.