Sinclair Broadcast Group Criticized For Fake News Promos
Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ: SBGI) is receiving considerable criticism over its decision to air a series of promos about the prevalence of fake news. Sinclair issued a company-wide directive for its stations’ news anchors to warn viewers about unsubstantiated news reports spreading via social media. The company said that the promos were part of a policy initiated earlier this year.
Sinclair had anchors at its 170-plus TV stations around the country read the same warning. The website Deadspin assembled a short video showing anchors reciting the same fake news warning word for word at dozens of Sinclair stations. Anchors at some Sinclair stations have complained about having to read the fake news promo scripts.
The promotional scripts invited viewers to contact the station if they feel the reporting contains any political bias or if they have any other concerns. Sinclair has reportedly instructed station managers to direct viewer comments to the company’s corporate headquarters. Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior VP of news, said, “It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable.”
Sinclair has a history of supporting conservative causes, fueling suspicion about the fake news promos having a larger agenda. Sinclair released a statement that said, “The promos served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information.”
The influence of fake news has been a hot topic over the past two years. Investigations have been sparked in Washington over Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election using made-up news stories and partisan-skewed information. President Donald Trump has frequently attacked mainstream news outlets that have published critical reports on his administration, his personal life, or his family.
President Trump sent a tweet praising Sinclair and criticizing CNN and NBC. The tweet read: “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.”
The FCC is nearing its final decision on Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media. Its reach will grow to more than 70 percent of U.S. TV households if the Tribune deal is completed. Employees at Tribune Media stations are reportedly on edge about changes that may come in the newsroom when Sinclair takes over. Karl Frisch, executive director of the media watchdog organization Allied Progress, said, “That’s an awfully big rubber-stamp for Trump’s agenda.”