By Mariah McCloskey, Opinion Writer
Flipping on the news to your local station, you hear the anchor talk about how “fake news” is a spreading problem and a “threat to democracy.” As you flip to the next station you hear the same thing, “fake news,” and on the next “a threat to democracy.” Is it all just a bad dream, where we can pinch ourselves awake?
Unfortunately not, the reason you hear the same news segment on every station is because most local stations are run by one mass TV conglomerate:
The Sinclair Broadcast Group. While most people have never heard of this Orwellian organization, this family-owned business has been around since 1971. The Sinclair broadcast group has been in the news recently for their “must-run” news segments. These segments denounce the ‘fake news’ of other news organizations. The same ‘fake news’ often spoken about by the current US President.
These small local stations are very popular among households as they prefer local news over nationwide mass media. Local stations provide information for a local community and are the resource for school closings, weather and other targeted information. Little do people know that these stations are controlled by larger groups.
These segments often mirror Trump’s “anti-media rhetoric” reported Vox, and the script is often the same across the board. So similar in fact that Deadspin’s Timothy Burke was able to edit them together into a ‘supercut’ showing dozens of Sinclair anchors saying the exact same words.
Often, Sinclair buys a local station and immediately the news coverage becomes more conservative and often less local focused. Now with less people reading their news, but relying on watching coverage for information, Sinclair has a spreading influence.
Sinclair has been quietly consuming local markets for decades and now “owns or operates dozens of CBS and ABC stations, as well as Fox-affiliated stations,” according to the Washington Post. Their quiet takeover of 193 local television stations across the nation has given rise to outrage by viewers from both sides of the political spectrum.
Vox stated that Sinclair’s level of right leaning news often causes viewership of these local news stations to fall, suggesting that, “the rightward tilt isn’t enacted as a strategy to win more viewers but as part of a persuasion effort.”
To help in the ‘effort’ many local news stations are forced to have ‘must-runs’, often bolstering Trump. In the early stages of the 2016 Presidential Elections many of these segments were used to help the donkey and bring down the elephant.
On one side of the spectrum, running stories about women campaigning for Trump, and on the other side running stories about Hillary Clinton’s email server and her personal health.
It is absurd that a business can hold this level of weight in everyday consumer’s lives. But the company is set to become more powerful with its planned $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which would add 42 stations to the conglomerate. CBS reported that Sinclair would reach 72 percent of American households if it closes its acquisition of Tribune Media stations.
Part of what is so concerning about Sinclair is that it is taking over existing local TV brands, often to the consternation of those stations’ staff.
CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that anchors at Sinclair-owned stations responded angrily to the “fake news” script that went viral, calling it “manipulative” and saying things like, “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s amount of influence in the public sphere is terrifying, especially when, until recently, they had never been heard of. The number of people’s lives they impact without people even realizing it is not something common to the American people. The real “threat to our democracy” is Sinclair, and unfortunately, we cannot pinch ourselves awake.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 10th print edition.
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