Sinclair and the midterms: Florida edition

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, and New York. Now, we’re taking a look at Florida.

Key 2018 races

  • Senate: Current Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is challenging incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in what may be “one of the most expensive campaigns in 2018.” Cook Political Report rated the race a toss-up as of publication.
  • Governor: The race to fill the Florida governor seat vacated by Scott is open, with 20-plus candidates currently seeking the position. The race was rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication.
  • House: Florida’s 18th congressional district (FL-18) in southeast Florida was rated “lean Republican” by Cook Political Report as of publication. Incumbent Brian Mast (R) currently has several challengers, with the filing deadline approaching on May 4.
  • House: Florida’s 26th congressional district (FL-26) near Miami was rated a toss-up by Cook Political Report as of publication. The incumbent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), currently has several Democratic challengers.
  • House: Florida’s 27th congressional district (FL-27) in south Florida was rated “lean Democratic” by Cook Political Report as of publication. The election is an open race with many Democratic, Republican, and independent candidates.

Sinclair stations in state

WPEC (CBS 12), WTVX (The CW West Palm), WWHB (Azteca 48), and WTCN (My15) in West Palm Beach

  • Parts of FL-18 are served by Sinclair-owned WPEC (CBS 12), WTVX (The CW), WWHB (Azteca 48) and WTCN (My15). All four stations broadcast in the West Palm Beach/Fort Pierce media market in south Florida and share a main studio address in West Palm Beach.
  • CBS 12 regularly airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including nationally produced news packages, fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” updates, and weekly shows Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson and The Armstrong Williams Show. It also aired the recent anchor-read scripted segments about media bias at least 33 times. The CW West Palm airs some of CBS 12’s daily local news programming, along with Full Measure.
  • My15 appears to occasionally re-air some of CBS 12’s local news programming, but it does not include any newscasts in its schedule on a daily basis.
  • The Spanish-language affiliate Azteca 48 posts local news updates online and airs Azteca-produced national news programming, but complete data about the extent of its daily local news programming is not available.

WGFL (CBS 4), WNBW (NBC 9), and WYME (Antenna TV) in Gainesville

  • WGFL (CBS 4) is owned and operated by New Age Media Management LLC but “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair.” WYME, also owned by New Age Media, is a low-power station affiliated with Antenna TV and operated in some capacity by Sinclair. WNBW (NBC 9) is owned by MPS Media but is operated, in some capacity, by Sinclair as well. All three stations share a main studio address in Gainesville, and all of their schedules and information are found on the CBS 4 website.
  • CBS 4 airs at least some of Sinclair’s “must-run” content, including nationally produced news packages, fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” updates, and the weekly show Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.
  • NBC 9 also airs CBS 4 newscasts and appears to air the same Sinclair “must-run” segments as CBS 4. Antenna TV does not air any local news programming.

WTWC (NBC 40/Fox 49) and WTLF (The CW) in Tallahassee

WEAR (ABC 3) and WFGX (MyTV 35) in Pensacola

Possibly coming soon: WSFL (The CW South Florida) in Fort Lauderdale

  • WSFL (The CW South Florida) in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale media area 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 after the deal goes through in order to comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership rules to a yet-undisclosed buyer. (The New York Post’s reporting has suggested the buyer is Fox.) However, Sinclair’s track record suggests the company may continue to operate the station in some capacity through legal loopholes.
  • Depending on the circumstances of the Sinclair-Tribune deal, The CW South Florida could be operating as a Sinclair station serving parts of FL-26 ahead of Election Day.

What else you need to know

Sinclair’s political action committee donated a total of $4,500 to Sen. Nelson’s re-election campaign committee between March 2015 and March 2018. Nelson is the ranking member of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation -- an important committee for Sinclair, since its jurisdiction includes the communications industry. Nelson has said Sinclair lobbied him last year in order to tamp down on potential Democratic opposition to the Tribune deal. But he has led at least two efforts by Senate Democrats in recent months that have targeted the FCC's role in regulating Sinclair's expansion. 

Sinclair is currently suing two former WPEC (CBS 12) reporters, claiming the former employees owe Sinclair thousands of dollars each for leaving the station before the end of their respective contracts. One of the reporters, Jonathan Beaton, cited a “clear-cut conservative agenda” in the newsroom as one reason he decided to leave. Recently leaked contracts from other Sinclair-owned stations reveal a pattern of harsh financial penalties that discourage employees from leaving or speaking out against the company.

The four Sinclair-owned and -operated stations currently broadcasting in West Palm Beach are part of the local media market for Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s resort in Florida.

Are there Sinclair stations near you?

Use Media Matters’ interactive map at to learn more.

Graphics by Sarah Wasko.