Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country's largest operator of local television stations, is purchasing seven broadcast TV stations and NewsChannel 8, a regional cable news network, from Allbriton Communications. Sinclair has a history of using its stations to promote a conservative messages and also attempted to influence the 2004 election in favor of the Republican Party.
According to the New York Times, Sinclair plans to purchase the stations for $985 million and “explore the rollout of a national cable news channel using NewsChannel 8 as its core.” The purchase includes WJLA, the ABC network affiliate in the Washington, D.C. media market. The Times reports that Sinclair's stations reach “about 35 percent of households in the United States.”
In the past, Sinclair has used its stations to promote a conservative, anti-progressive message.
Sinclair used to produce and distribute a one-minute commentary segment called “The Point,” hosted by Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman. Broadcast on Sinclair stations nationwide, “The Point” regularly attacked progressives while promoting conservative misinformation on issues like social security,Hurricane Katrina, and health care. The segment ceased production in 2006, but Hyman's right-wing commentaries resumed in 2010 as “Behind The Headlines with Mark Hyman,” which currently airs on several Sinclair-owned stations.
Hyman is also a contributor to The American Spectator's website, where he added his voice to the chorus of conspiracy theorists spreading unfounded rumors about President Obama's birth certificate. A recent column by Hyman asked, “Did Barack Obama just green light the execution of George Zimmerman?”
In April 2004, Sinclair refused to carry a special edition of Nightline in which the names of the servicemen and women killed in Iraq were read aloud on its ABC affiliates. In a statement, the company described the episode as part of “a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.” Hyman accused then-Nightline anchor Ted Koppel of “trying to stir up public opposition” to the war.
A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming and air Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, a film which leveled several false accusations against Democratic presidential candidate and Navy veteran John Kerry. When reporter Jon Leiberman criticized the film as “biased political propaganda,” he was fired by Sinclair. Sinclair later backtracked on its plans and instead aired A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media, which negatively focused on Kerry's activities during the war.
At a 2005 press conference with then-Senator John Kerry, Sinclair's Washington bureau chief Don Hammond attempted to ask Kerry about the “amazing accusations” by conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi about Kerry's military career.