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  • Sinclair “must-run” segment on family separation policy and child detention attacks the media

    Sinclair's Boris Epshteyn: Media have “seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Audiences across the country are watching a segment on their local news telling them that liberals in media had overblown reports of children separated from their parents and detained in cages near the border -- all thanks to Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    From the most recent “must-run” “Bottom Line With Boris” commentary segment (emphasis added):

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: Our immigration system is undeniably broken and the discourse around this topic is toxic. A perfect illustration of these facts is the recent firestorm surrounding President Trump’s decision to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy and prosecute all adults illegally crossing our borders. Many members of the media and opponents of the president have seized on this issue to make it seem as if those who are tough on immigration are somehow monsters. Let’s be honest: While some of the concern is real, a lot of it is politically driven by the liberals in politics and the media.

    The two-minute spot concluded that President Donald Trump was “working to show that it is possible to balance humanity with security for our borders” by signing an executive order yesterday to end the zero tolerance family separation policy his administration unilaterally decided to implement in the first place.

    This reprehensible segment will now be forcibly aired, often spliced into local news coverage, on more than 100 Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations throughout the country as part of the media giant’s infamous “must-run” lineup. According to a Media Matters search of the iqMedia database this morning, the segment has already aired on stations in at least 18 states. 

    Sinclair is known for its history of injecting right-wing spin into local newscasts, most notably with these “must-run” segments. The segments have included blatant (and sometimes embarrassing) pro-Trump propaganda missives from Epshteyn for more than a year now. Epshteyn has used his “Bottom Line With Boris” segments to attack members of the press for being too mean to the president, praise seemingly every move Trump makes, and offer jaw-droppingly ill-timed defenses of Trump and his staff members. He also defended Trump’s unforgivable statements after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, and supported Trump’s idea to hold a dictator-style military parade.

    Thanks to the Trump Federal Communications Commission, segments like this could soon air on even more local TV news stations including in major cities and battleground states across the country, reaching 72 percent of U.S. television households.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more. 

    This post has been updated to include more information about where the segment has aired. 

  • Sinclair and the midterms: California edition

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you live in a midsize city or battleground state, you are now more likely than ever to see pro-Trump propaganda and conservative spin on your local news -- just in time for the 2018 election season -- thanks to conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Media Matters has identified communities that will see competitive congressional midterm races and that have Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations. Many Sinclair stations are already airing national news programming with a conservative slant, and they will be ramping up coverage of their local races.

    We’ve already tackled Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Now, we’re taking a look at California.

    Key 2018 races

    There are seven key congressional district races in California, most labeled by Cook Political Report as toss-up or “lean Republican” races and some targeted as key races by political groups. One currently includes several communities with Sinclair news stations, and the rest may have at least one Sinclair station before Election Day.

    • House: California’s 21st congressional district (CA-21), in the central San Joaquin Valley, was considered a “likely Republican” race by Cook Political Report as of publication, but it is one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s targeted races for 2018. Incumbent Republican Rep. David Valadao faces Democrat challenger TJ Cox.
    • House: There are six other key House races in California, many in districts that are part of Orange County and/or the greater Los Angeles area: CA-10, CA-25, CA-39, CA-45, CA-48, and CA-49.

    Sinclair stations in the state

    KMPH (Fox 26), KFRE (CW 59), and KMPH-CD in Fresno

    • Sinclair controls KMPH (Fox 26) and KFRE (CW 59), two main local stations in the Fresno area, including parts of CA-21. It also owns KMPH-CD, a separate, small station that relays Fox 26 broadcasts to certain parts of the media market. All three stations share a main studio address in Fresno.
    • Fox 26 regularly airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including some nationally produced news packages, fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” updates, and “Bottom Line with Boris” pro-Trump commentary segments. It also aired the recent anchor-read scripted segments about media bias at least twice.
    • The CW 59 re-airs some newscasts from Fox 26, likely including some of these “must-run” segments.

    KBAK (CBS 29) and KBFX (Fox 58) in Bakersfield

    KRCR (ABC 7), KCVU (Fox 20), KUCO-LP (Univision), and KRVU-LD (MyNetwork) in Chico and Redding

    • Further north, Sinclair owns a group of four stations in the media market serving the areas around Chico and Redding: KRCR (ABC, News Channel 7), KVCU (Fox 20), and smaller stations KUCO-LP (a Univision affiliate) and KRVU-LD (a MyNetwork TV affiliate).
    • ABC 7 regularly airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including national news packages, “Terrorism Alert Desk,” and “Bottom Line with Boris.” It also airs Full Measure, and it ran the recent anchor-read scripted segments about media bias at least 17 times. Fox 20 airs a nightly KRCR newscast, likely including some of these “must-run” segments.

    KAEF (ABC 23), KBVU (Fox 28), KECA-LD (CW), and KEUV-LP (Univision) in Eureka

    • Sinclair also controls a group of four stations in the Eureka media market, which neighbors the market serving Chico and Redding. It owns KAEF (ABC 23), KBVU (Fox 28), and smaller stations KECA-LD (a CW affiliate) and KEUV-LP (a Univision affiliate.) ABC 23 and Fox 28 -- together branded as “North Coast News” -- share a website with the Sinclair-owned ABC and Fox affiliates in Chico and Redding.
    • Data is not currently available for ABC 23 or Fox 28’s airing of “must-run” segments. ABC 23 does air Sinclair’s weekly news show Full Measure and appears to likely share some news resources with KRCR (ABC 7) in nearby Redding, which airs “must-run” content.   

    Coming soon: KTLA (KTLA 5, CW) in Los Angeles

    • Sinclair is set to purchase several more California local news stations via its pending acquisition of Tribune Media, including KTLA (KTLA 5, a CW affiliate) in Los Angeles, one of the largest local media markets in the country.
    • KTLA serves parts of CA-25, CA-39, CA-45, CA-48, and CA-49.

    Possibly coming soon: KSWB (Fox 5) in San Diego and KTXL (Fox 40) in Sacramento

    • Sinclair also plans to acquire KSWB (Fox 5) in San Diego, which serves parts of CA-49. However, Sinclair has agreed to sell the station to 21st Century Fox in order to comply with current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits.
    • Sinclair plans to use the same strategy for KTXL (Fox 40) in Sacramento, which serves parts of both CA-10 and CA-21. It will also acquire the station from Tribune Media and has agreed to sell it to Fox.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you?

    Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko

  • Fox News reportedly having difficulty selling ads for Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham’s shows: “The pro-Trump thing isn’t working"

    Fox News’ business model is not sustainable

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    We now have further confirmation that Fox News’ role as a mouthpiece for Donald Trump is affecting the network’s bottom line.

    According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, the network is struggling to sell ad space on their 9 and 10 PM respective programs.

    While Fox News dominated the ratings in May—a fact Trump bragged about on Saturday—the network is having new difficulties monetizing its most pro-Trump programming. According to three sources briefed on the numbers, advertising revenues for Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are down in recent months. “The pro-Trump thing isn’t working. We can’t monetize DACA and the wall and that right-wing shit,” one staffer said. “Despite all the hype on Hannity, they can’t sell it,” another insider told me. (Tucker Carlson’s show is faring better, sources said).
     

    This follows an October 2017 report that Fox News’ ad revenue had dropped 17% year over year, at the same time that ad revenue at other cable news networks was relatively stable.

    Advertisers have fled Sean Hannity’s toxic program because of his promotion of conspiracy theories, pro-Trump propaganda and willingness to take extreme measure to deflect and defend anything that comes out of the White House. Media Matters launched a campaign to focus on advertiser education when it became clear that there were no rules for Sean Hannity at Fox News. Recent events have only vindicated that. There is no pretense that Hannity abides by any standards, as Hannity has built an entire universe separate from the rest of Fox News based solely on absolute and undying loyalty to Donald Trump. Reports indicate that Hannity advises the president on a consistent basis, who in turn promotes Hannity’s show on his Twitter account. Many advertisers have left the show. At this point, the sole purpose of Hannity’s show is not profit, or education, or even entertainment: It is to lay the groundwork for an authoritarian response to the Russia probe led by Robert Mueller.

    Meanwhile, Laura Ingraham has built her show around racism, sexism and fear mongering about immigrants. She has attacked asylum seekers and refugees, told athletes to “shut up and dribble” after Lebron James criticized President Trump, and said that transgender people don’t belong in the military. Ingraham received massive blowback for these remarks.

    This backlash spilled over to financial consequences following Ingraham’s attacks on Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg and his sister Lauren. The duo led an advertiser boycott against Ingraham, forcing her to apologize and take a “vacation.” On her radio show, Ingraham doubled down, attacking companies that left her show as having “gave into the mob.”

    But until some management imposes real standards and consequences at Fox News, it’s up to activists and advertisers to shoulder the burden. As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone wrote in October:

    Mostly driven by concerns around digital advertising, companies are becoming increasingly mindful about brand safety and intentionality in that advertising. And that mindfulness is starting to influence other advertising decisions as well, like television sponsorships.

    Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business. But Fox News continues to offer all three in spades, and as a result, I suspect it is beginning to have a downward effect on the network’s commercial viability as a whole.

    Bottom line is this: Fox News’ ad revenue plummeted. It’s likely largely attributable to Hannity’s growing advertiser losses. And it also appears to reflect a deeper vulnerability in Fox News’ business model of bigotry, deceit, and partisanship.

  • Right-wing media’s latest pathetic attempts to smear Google as leftist radicals

    The two latest conservative “scandals” about Google actually have innocuous explanations, but that’s never stopped right-wing media from making dishonest “censorship” claims before, and it won’t now either

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservatives are using a pair of stories about Google search results to pile onto their claims that the tech company is intrinsically biased against conservatives. This claim is farcical nonsense, and it fits perfectly into a right-wing pattern of playing technology companies for fools with misleading or completely false accusations. 

    On May 31, Vice reported that Google search results for the California Republican Party listed “Nazism” as the party’s ideology in the knowledge panel, a section on the right side of the search page that quickly summarizes basic information on search queries. Then, on June 1, Vice also reported that the knowledge panel for North Carolina State Sen. Trudy Wade, a Republican, featured an image of her with “BIGOT” written at the bottom in red letters. Google has corrected both of these issues with its knowledge panels, which are automatically populated with information from a number of sources, some of which, like Wikipedia, anybody can edit any time. 

    Right-wing media predictably cry that Google has an anti-conservative bias

    Conservative media are using these stories to smear Google as a left-wing operative determined to take down Republicans. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade repurposed an argument from the Hoover Institute’s Niall Ferguson to suggest that Silicon Valley was upset at the Trump campaign’s prolific use of social media during the 2016 election and was trying to tilt the midterm elections for the Democrats. Fox’s Stuart Varney lied about the Trudy Wade image, falsely claiming that “a Google staffer put a ‘bigot’ sign” on Wade’s photo. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said the California Republican Party search result showed that “evidence is mounting that conservative voices are either being suppressed” or “being falsely depicted as hateful extremists” on Google. And Breitbart News scandalized Wikipedia’s relationship with the knowledge panel, claiming that Wikipedia allegedly has a pro-CNN bias. 

    Members of Congress even got involved in the reactionary pile-on. House intelligence committee chairman and all-around embarrassment Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Fox Business that “we [would] have to move obviously to hearings on these issues” if Google continued to “get involved in politics” and “censor conservatives and Republicans.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested to MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt that Google lied when it blamed the “Nazism” search result on Wikipedia, because he had “looked at Wikipedia” earlier “and it didn’t say ‘Nazism’” anywhere. 

    The right wing’s claims of bias are dishonest bullshit 

    As Google explained at the time, Nazism appeared in the California Republican Party knowledge panel because Google pulled the information from the party’s Wikipedia page, which had been “vandalized,” meaning it was deliberately incorrectly updated. Wired magazine reported that Wikipedia edit logs confirm that a user falsely edited the page to show “Nazism” as a core belief for the state party and that the note went undetected on the site for a week. It appeared on the Google knowledge panel because the search engine automatically “scrapes” Wikipedia to populate the feature. The edit logs might explain why McCarthy didn’t see “Nazism” on the page when he looked: The story broke on May 31 and he tweeted about it the same day, but Wikipedia had removed the “Nazism” claim from the California Republican Party page the day before

    Similarly, with Trudy Wade, Google removed the “bigot” image from her knowledge panel as soon as the issue was brought to its attention, but the search engine told her that she needed to ask the owner of the image to “take down or update the content” in order to completely remove it from search results. Wade complained during an appearance on the Sunday, June 3, edition of Fox & Friends Weekend that the image was still up, Matt Comer -- a North Carolina LGBTQ activist who first posted the image -- tweeted that Wade never contacted him, suggesting she is more interested in media hits than in actually getting the image removed.

    Furthermore, Paul Blest at Splinter News followed the money and found -- shockingly! -- that Google actually likes Republicans, especially Rep. McCarthy. For the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, political donations to Google’s PAC were split roughly evenly between Republicans and Democrats; in fact, Republicans got a bit more in 2016 than Democrats did. Additionally, McCarthy was one of the Google PAC’s “biggest recipients” in 2016 and got $10,000 in 2016 and another $5,000 in 2018 so far.

    Dishonest bullshit is the right wing’s trade, and business is booming

    As Media Matters has documented for over a decade, right-wing media outlets are expert traders in bullshit, and that trend has not slowed in the age of social media. Most recently, this trend has manifested itself with pro-Trump websites claiming the algorithmic changes at Facebook are censoring their content -- a charge pro-Trump social media figures Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson are leading, while occasionally betraying their profound ignorance

    However, users across the political spectrum have seen their Facebook page views decline since the platform rolled out new rules against fake news and hate speech. In Diamond and Silk’s specific case, the drop in their video views was not even as significant as that of the left-leaning MSNBC prime-time program The Rachel Maddow Show, which “has a much larger [Facebook] page and is the most popular cable news program in the country.” 

    None of these facts have remotely slowed down Diamond and Silk’s quest to gain attention for their invented grievance. They push their deceit on Fox News and the network actively helps them spread lies about so-called “censorship.” They even brought their perjurious carnival show to the U.S. Congress. Republicans repeatedly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this alleged “censorship,” and the focus on the two vloggers took time and attention away from more serious issues Zuckerberg perhaps should have discussed with elected leaders.

    Compounding this problem is Google’s reliance on unaccountable third parties for its knowledge panels and search results, including, when it comes to Wikipedia, volunteer labor. While most Wikipedia users likely engage with the site in good faith, vandalism clearly remains a problem and those problems can sometimes trickle out into the larger world. Among conservative circles, there have been and continue to be active movements around astroturfing -- or falsifying the origins of -- online debate. In 2014, BuzzFeed News uncovered “Operation Lollipop,” an organized effort by users of far-right image boards and men’s rights websites to impersonate feminists and start fights among real activists. Then, on June 4, BuzzFeed News also reported on a far-reaching effort from similar extremist websites to flood comment sections on Disqus with hate speech in order to dominate the conversation and recruit new bigots. There is too much bad faith online for Google to be so reliant on the honor system.

    The simple truth about right-wing media and alleged censorship on social media is that fake news, conspiracy theories, and online harassment are all more prevalent in conservative circles than in others. So if conservative media spaces are feeling the impact of policy changes meant to combat such misinformation more harshly than others (if they are indeed feeling such an impact), then perhaps it’s right-wing audiences and content creators who are abusing the platforms, not the other way around. 

  • Get a load of this wild Sinclair town hall discussion on “youth & morality” 

    Sinclair says such discussions are a “significant public interest benefit” for stations it buys

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Last night, Sinclair Broadcast Group station WJLA hosted a “town hall” discussion on "youth & morality" featuring morally bankrupt media personality Armstrong Williams, young conservative talking heads Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, a campus carry activist, and a Daily Caller reporter (among others) -- and Sinclair wants you to believe it’s for the public good.

    The town hall was branded as both an episode of Sinclair-linked commentator Armstrong Williams’ show and a part of Sinclair’s ongoing town hall discussion series. The town hall does not appear to have yet aired on WJLA and it’s not clear if it has aired or will air on the WJLA-operated local Washington, D.C., cable channel News Channel 8, but it’s posted in full on WJLA’s website.

    Sinclair touts its “Your Voice, Your Future” local town halls as a public service and an opportunity to “alert, inform, empower and engage our audience.” Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how that went:

    For this event, “morality” actually meant Christianity specifically

    Though the panel was titled “Youth & Morality,” it was advertised as largely focusing on one study that showed dwindling millennial identification with Christianity, which WJLA characterized as a sign of “unprecedented moral decline.” The panel discussion was filmed at the Museum of the Bible.  

    Two minutes into the town hall, host Armstrong Williams asked the audience to raise their hands if they believe in God. (Williams also asked for audience members to raise their hands if they were atheist; one person did and panelists grimaced.) Williams’ first question for the panelists followed from there: “Can you be moral and good and not believe in God?” (Most of the panelists agreed that it was possible but not as easy.) Within eight minutes, panelists were equating “objective truth” with a belief in a Christian god and arguing that the inability to identify objective truths was “cultural Marxist.”

    At one point during a commercial break, Williams can be heard joking on a live mic, “Don’t fall asleep on me!” The panel returned from that break to listen to Charlie Kirk talk about “the distinction between Christianity and other religions.”  

    The “morality” panel was hosted by the notoriously morally challenged Armstrong Williams

    The town hall was hosted by conservative pundit Armstrong Williams, who has significant ties to Sinclair. Williams hosts a weekly show that airs on the Sinclair-owned News Channel 8 in the D.C. area and is syndicated on other Sinclair local TV stations across the country. Williams also owns several local TV stations through his holding company, Howard Stirk Holdings, which in turn sends business back to Sinclair through operations agreements.

    Williams is a close confidante of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, even doing public relations work on behalf of Carson while continuing to also work as a media figure. (He also served as a Carson presidential campaign adviser while maintaining his weekly hosting duties.) Recently, Williams has aligned himself with other members of the Trump administration, joining Sinclair CEO David Smith in meeting with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai -- who was then a commissioner -- to advocate for pro-industry policies the day before Trump’s inauguration. About two months later, Williams hosted Pai on his show for a friendly interview.

    Back in 2005, Williams used an earlier version of his syndicated show to promote Bush administration education policies, failing to note he was paid $240,000 by the administration to do so. The Government Accountability Office subsequently found that the Bush Department of Education had violated federal laws about covert government propaganda by paying Williams for the promotion.

    Williams has also settled at least two sexual harassment suits -- one in 1997 involving reports that he “repeatedly kissed and fondled” a former producer for his now-defunct radio show over the course of nearly two years, and another in 2017 alleging that he groped and sought sexual favors from a former employee and later retaliated against the man.

    During the panel, Williams talked about his daily prayer routine and decision not to “use profane language” at work because he is the “moral leader” in his office.

    Several participants also seem to struggle with morals

    The panel featured eight participants in addition to Williams, the majority of whom were young conservative media figures who fall at various points on the spectrum from extreme or blatantly racist to embarrassing or just boring.

    TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens both participated in parts of the town hall. Frequent Fox News guest and conservative “boy wonder” Kirk is the founder of TPUSA, a group best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which its members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs,” but whose stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Kirk, Owens, and TPUSA frequently fearmonger about suppression of conservative speech on college campuses while themselves leading a McCarthyist doxxing effort against liberal professors. Meanwhile, TPUSA has defended at least one professor with ties to a white nationalist group and several of its leading members have been outed for expressing patently racist sentiments, e.g. the group’s former national field director making the statement “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE.”

    Owens, TPUSA’s communications director, is another Fox News regular and “a far-right vlogger and conspiracy theorist” who has lately garnered media attention after rapper Kanye West praised “the way Candace Owens thinks.” Owens gained attention from far-right MAGA trolls after she posted a video in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, VA, “Unite the Right” rally in which she dismissed white supremacy as a narrative pushed by the media, leading to her appearance on conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. Owens has also called for all DREAMers to be deported and has argued that immigrants directly harm the black community.

    During the town hall discussion, Owens lamented that conservatives were allowing themselves to be “silenced by liberal outrage” and said that younger conservatives and Christians ought to “punch back.”

    The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also participated in the discussion. The Daily Caller is Tucker Carlson’s sexist and racist brainchild, which frequently dabbles in anti-Semitism, anti-trans rhetoric, far-right conspiracy theories, and celebrity bikini photo slideshows, and makes light of sexual assault. Athey herself has tweeted anti-Semitic jokes, and repeatedly used the slurs “fag” and ”faggot,” and, in one case, “nigga$.” (Athey has since deleted the tweets, but they are available via archive.is.)

    During the town hall discussion, Athey complained, “There are a lot of ideas on college campuses that -- if they’re conservative or they’re religious, they’re considered taboo and you’re not allowed to say it. Otherwise you’re considered a bigot.”  

    Town hall participant Antonia Okafor describes herself as “one of the country’s foremost advocates of concealed carry on campus” and has previously appeared in NRA media. Okafor makes regular media appearances pushing NRA-backed myths about campus carry, arguing that carrying concealed firearms would make young black women safer. In reality, the presence of firearms in domestic violence situations, for example, puts women’s lives -- and especially black women’s lives -- at significantly greater risk. And household gun ownership in general only increases the risk of death due to homicide, suicide, or accident; Okafor’s agenda would put women in greater danger.

    Rounding out the participant list are right-wing media figures Jason Russell, an editor at the conservative Washington Examiner, and Shermichael Singleton, an aspiring conservative pundit who briefly worked at Carson’s HUD before he was fired for anti-Trump writings. Preacher and lobbyist Quadricos Driskell and American Legislative Exchange Council-affiliated conservative attorney Shelby Emmett also participated.

    Sinclair cites town halls like this as evidence its expansion would benefit the public

    Sinclair has used its “Your Voice, Your Future” town halls -- also the platform former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka used to decry “black African gun crime” last fall -- to argue that Sinclair-owned and -operated local TV stations are providing greater services to the public. In one Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, Sinclair pointed to the discussion series as evidence that its planned acquisition of Tribune Media would create a “significant public interest benefit.”

    The FCC is currently reviewing the Sinclair-Tribune deal specifically to ensure it would benefit the public and has signaled it will make a decision following a comment period that ends on July 12.

    Eric Hananoki contributed research to this post.

  • Sinclair is gearing up to compete with Fox -- by being even worse than Fox

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Recent reports indicate that local TV news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has met with a number of current and former Fox News employees and is gearing up to compete directly with the cable channel -- by attempting to beat Fox News in a race to the very bottom.

    On May 16, Politico’s Jason Schwartz reported that Sinclair executive chairman David Smith met “in the last few months” with the executive producer of Fox News’ Hannity. The producer, Porter Berry, is at least the second person with close ties to Sean Hannity to have reportedly met with Sinclair leadership recently; Schwartz earlier reported that Sinclair was attempting to recruit current Tribune programming executive Sean Compton, a “close friend” of Hannity’s.

    According to Schwartz’s sources, Smith is planning to set up Sinclair as a direct competitor with Fox News after the former’s massive acquisition of Tribune Media is finalized. Smith is said to be developing ideas for a “three-hour block of news-opinion programming” that could air on a cable network Sinclair already owns or another it would acquire in the Tribune deal.

    Sinclair’s apparent dream line-up for this nightly cable news programming amounts to a who’s who of Fox News liabilities and Trump sycophants. Not only has Smith reportedly met with executives close to Hannity, but he’s also been in talks with current Fox News host Jeanine Pirro as well as a handful of former Fox personalities: Greta Van Susteren, Eric Bolling, James Rosen, and (at least at one point) Bill O’Reilly.

    Of this group of six, half left Fox News in connection with sexual misconduct reports. Bolling parted ways with Fox last September amid an investigation into reports he had sent unsolicited pictures of male genitalia to multiple colleagues. Rosen reportedly departed the network around the new year following “increased scrutiny of his behavior” due to an “established pattern” of harassment. And O’Reilly, of course, was fired in April 2017 after reports came out that he had engaged in a decades-long pattern of harassment and that 21st Century Fox had failed to stop it.

    O’Reilly, Pirro, Van Susteren, and Hannity were all vocal defenders of late Fox chief Roger Ailes when he was named for serial sexual harassment in 2016. (Van Susteren later said she regretted defending Ailes.)

    In order to truly compete with Fox News, Sinclair has decided it must be willing to become a safe space for Fox News’ most toxic liabilities -- including powerful media men who have hurt others, created hostile and unsafe work environments, and done little to nothing to make it right. This shameful decision is the latest sign from Sinclair executives that the company simply does not care about the safety of its employees or the actual needs of its viewers.  

    Sinclair’s strategy for competing with Fox also seems to include seeking out top Trump sycophants like Pirro, who spends nearly every Saturday night on Fox yelling about the president’s alleged mistreatment by just about everyone (and who is also informally advising the president). Bolling, too, has been orbiting the Trump White House for months. And Sean Hannity -- perhaps the worst of them all -- has taken Fox prime time to impossibly new lows in the name of defending the president.

    Sinclair is already drastically changing the local news landscape, infecting TV stations across the country with a combination of blatant pro-Trump propaganda, fearmongering rhetoric, and uniform local news that barely counts as “local” at all. Its M.O. of drastic consolidation leaves its own journalists under-resourced and embarrassed by their employer, and it leaves local audiences with less access to the news they need.

    Sinclair is doing more than enough to make local news measurably worse. Will it now sink below even the Fox News fever swamp to bring more horrors -- and even less actual news -- to cable?

  • Sinclair and the midterms: Ohio edition

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you live in a midsize city or battleground state, you are now more likely than ever to see pro-Trump propaganda and conservative spin on your local news -- just in time for the 2018 election season -- thanks to conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Media Matters has identified communities that will see competitive congressional midterm races and that have Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations. Many Sinclair stations are already airing national news programming with a conservative slant, and they will be ramping up coverage of their local races.

    We’ve already tackled Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Florida, and Virginia. Now, we’re taking a look at Ohio.



    Key 2018 races

    • Governor: Current Gov. John Kasich (R) cannot seek a third term, and the race to elect a new governor was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication (and dubbed “one of 2018’s most bizzare campaigns” by Vox.) The candidates are current state Attorney General Mike DeWine (R); former state Attorney General Richard Cordray (D), who is also the former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and Green Party candidate Constance Gadell-Newton.
    • House: Ohio’s first congressional district (OH-1), in the southwestern corner of the state, was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication. Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot faces Democratic challenger and current Hamilton County clerk Aftab Pureval and independent candidate Mike Goldschmidt.
    • House: Ohio’s 12th congressional district (OH-12), located in central Ohio, has an open seat for the first time in 18 years after the January resignation of Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R). The seat will be filled in a special election in August, rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication. The Republican candidate is state Sen. Troy Balderson and the Democratic candidate is Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor.

    Sinclair stations in state

    WSYX, WTTE, and WWHO in Columbus

    WKRC (Local 12) and WSTR (Star 64) in Cincinnati

    • Sinclair has a hand in news programming at two stations serving the Cincinnati area, most of which is located in OH-1. It owns and operates the CBS-affiliated WKRC (Local 12), and it provides “certain services” to Deerfield Media-owned WSTR (Star 64). The two stations share a main studio address in Cincinnati.
    • Local 12, a CBS affiliate, airs some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including some national news packages, “Bottom Line with Boris,” and Full Measure. It also aired the recent anchor-read scripted segments about media bias at least seven times.
    • Star 64 airs Local 12 newscasts and at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including “Terrorism Alert Desk” and “Bottom Line with Boris.” It aired the recent anchor-read scripted segments about media bias at least three times.

    WKEF (ABC 22 Now) and WRGT (Fox 45 Now) in Miamisburg

    WNWO (NBC 24) in Toledo

    WCHS (ABC 8) and WVAH (Fox 11) in Charleston, WV

    Possibly coming soon: WJW (Fox 8) in Cleveland

    • WJW (Fox 8) in Cleveland is currently owned by Tribune Media and will soon be owned (at least briefly) by Sinclair if the company’s pending acquisition of up to 42 Tribune stations is approved.
    • Sinclair indicated it will sell the station to 21st Century Fox after the deal goes through in order to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership rules. Sinclair’s track record suggests the company may continue to operate the station in some capacity through legal loopholes -- though reporting says the station will be owned and operated by Fox.

    What else you need to know

    The winner of the Ohio governor’s race will have significant say over state redistricting for U.S. House seats following the 2020 Census.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you?

    Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Sinclair and the midterms: Virginia edition

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you live in a midsize city or battleground state, you are now more likely than ever to see pro-Trump propaganda and conservative spin on your local news -- just in time for the 2018 election season -- thanks to conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Media Matters has identified communities that will see competitive congressional midterm races and that have Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations. Many Sinclair stations are already airing national news programming with a conservative slant, and they will be ramping up coverage of their local races.

    We’ve already tackled Nevada, Tennessee, New York, and Florida. Now, we’re taking a look at Virginia.
     

    Key 2018 races

    • House: Virginia’s second congressional district (VA-2), which includes easternmost parts of the state around the Chesapeake Bay, was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication. Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor faces a primary challenger, and several others are seeking the Democratic nomination for the race.
    • House: Virginia’s fifth congressional district (VA-5), spanning a large area in the center of the state, was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication. Republican incumbent Rep. Tom Garrett faces Democratic challenger Leslie Cockburn, a former journalist.
    • House: Virginia’s seventh congressional district (VA-7), which includes Richmond suburbs and parts of central VA, was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication. Two Democrats are competing for the nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. David Brat.
    • House: Virginia’s 10th congressional district (VA-10), which includes Washington, D.C.'s western suburbs, was rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication. Republican incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock faces a long list of potential challengers in the race, which Politico dubbed one of the “top 10 House races to watch in 2018.”

    Sinclair stations in state

    WSET (ABC 13) in Lynchburg

    WRLH (Fox Richmond) in Richmond

    • Parts of VA-7 are currently served by Sinclair-owned WRLH (Fox Richmond) in nearby Richmond. Sinclair reportedly does not produce Fox Richmond’s regular newscasts; the channel contracts with another local station for news production, so it apparently does not currently air Sinclair’s national “must-run” content.
    • Sinclair has indicated it will sell Fox Richmond if its pending acquisition of Tribune Media stations is approved. The media company would sell the station to Standard Media in order to comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s current media ownership rules. However, Sinclair’s track record suggests the company may continue to operate the station in some capacity through legal loopholes.

    WTVZ (MyTVZ) in Norfolk

    WJLA (ABC 7) in Washington, D.C.

    WLFL and WRDC in Raleigh, NC

    • Some of the southernmost areas in VA-5 are served by the Sinclair-owned and -operated WLFL (The CW 22) and WRDC (MyRDC) based in Raleigh, NC.
    • The CW 22 currently airs newscasts from a non-Sinclair-affiliated local station.
    • MyRDC does not appear to air any local news programming.

    Coming soon: WTKR and WGNT in Norfolk, WTVR in Richmond, WDCW in Washington, D.C.

    • Sinclair is set to purchase Richmond-based station WTVR (CBS 6) in its pending acquisition of up to 42 Tribune Media stations. Should the deal go through, Sinclair has indicated it will sell its current Richmond-based station, WRLH Fox Richmond (and presumably keep the newly acquired CBS 6) in order to comply with FCC rules.
    • Sinclair is also set to purchase Tribune stations WTKR (CBS 3) and WGNT (CW) in Norfolk. Its current Norfolk-based station, MyTVZ, does not air local news programming, but if Sinclair develops a local newscast, likely based at the largest station, CBS 3, up to three different channels in the Norfolk area could soon air at least some Sinclair news programming.
    • Sinclair will also acquire WDCW (DCW50) in the Tribune purchase.

    What else you need to know

    Former WSET (ABC 13) reporter Suri Crowe recounted to BuzzFeed News in April that Sinclair management had insisted she add false balance in news stories about climate change and gun violence. Crowe was reprimanded for refusing to “seed doubt about man-made climate change,” as BuzzFeed put it, and add more conservative “balance” to her stories. She was ultimately forced out in 2017.

    Sinclair’s main operations are primarily centralized in the Beltway areas of Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Its headquarters are located in Hunt Valley, MD, not far from its flagship station, WBFF (Fox 45), in Baltimore. And at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content and weekly news programming is produced at the WJLA studios in Arlington, VA, including the fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, “Bottom Line With Boris” pro-Trump commentary segments, many of the national news packages, and Full Measure.

    WJLA (ABC 7) is one of four stations that recently ran an anti-Sinclair ad campaign by progressive consumer watchdog group Allied Progress -- but the station reportedly sandwiched the ad between Sinclair-provided video that characterized it as “hysteria and hype.”

    Are there Sinclair stations near you?

    Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • Alex Jones' shows are now on cable -- and he wants to take it even further

    Jones praised "pro-Trump" Sinclair Broadcast Group: "They know what to do"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Alex Jones boasted that the programming from his conspiracy theory operation Infowars now airs on “over 300" TV stations, including “over 70 cable systems or so and maybe over 15 TV stations,” and he praised the strategy of Sinclair Broadcast Group, claiming it “knows what to do” in pushing out pro-Trump propaganda on local stations.

    During the May 8 livestream of his show, Jones noted that his programming is carried by cable systems, which he said he has accomplished by making his content “free to air” and gifting the 15 minutes of advertising on each hour to the cable provider or local station, while he plugs his dietary supplements and apocalypse-preparedness merchandise during his regular programming. Jones bemoaned that his programming isn’t on Sinclair “at this point,” while calling Sinclair “the leader, nationwide, in local television.”

    The right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group is already the largest provider of local TV news in the country and is now further expanding thanks to the Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump. Sinclair requires its news stations to run fearmongering rhetoric and pro-Trump propaganda on a regular basis, exploiting the trust communities have in their local news. In March, Sinclair stations around the country started airing promotional segments in which local anchors had been asked to attack media outlets for their “irresponsible, one-sided stories.” The segments looked like a “hostage” video. Jones went on to praise Sinclair’s “pro-Trump stuff” model, claiming that “it sells”:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): I don’t know why I said in that promo over a hundred TV stations -- it’s over 300, over 70 cable systems, and that was as of about a week ago. We just signed a couple smaller deals, another 15 stations or so, few more radio stations came in. But I think we’re  gonna get a deal with 200 -- 200 more. And a lot of these are in big cities and are the main channels where they’re doing stuff like carrying my show but taped to air at night during family hour, and then they tell people, “And tune over to our sub-channel for 24 hours a day.” It’s very smart. Now again, in the late ‘70s they said that AM stations were gonna turn off. But then conservatives and libertarians and people like the great patriot who helped us get rid of the Fairness Doctrine had the ideas to, hey, launch political talk radio on there and get around the leftist control that dominated television. So the internet of the ‘80s and ‘90s, before we really had the modern internet, was AM radio, and it’s still there today and it’s still doing pretty good despite all the attacks because people decided to use it. Well, they say TV -- local cable, local broadcast TV -- doesn’t have the listeners it used to have or the viewers. That’s not true. You put specialty things on, local sports, local news, it has huge ratings. You put special political programming on that’s pro-America, that people are hungry for -- why do you think Sinclair has had all this pro-Trump stuff on? Cause it’s popular. It sells and it’s good. So, again, ladies and gentleman, Sinclair knows what it’s doing -- they’re the leader, nationwide, in local television and we’re not on Sinclair at this point. But I’m saying, they know what to do. So these TV stations, these cable systems are putting us on all over. It is explosive. This is very, very exciting.

    Pam Vogel contributed research to this piece. Find out here if Sinclair controls a local news station near you.