The conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest owners of local TV stations in the United States, is reportedly ceasing most or all local news broadcasts at 10 stations in different cities and states around the country. They will be replaced by Sinclair’s national weekday program The National Desk, which has a history of broadcasting right-wing misinformation.
Several news websites that cover media reported in recent weeks that Sinclair is laying off news teams at multiple TV stations and replacing some or all of their local news broadcasts with The National Desk. On May 1, TVNewsCheck reported:
Five Sinclair Broadcast Group stations will cease all local news broadcasts in two weeks after layoffs eliminated most or all of their respective news teams. The affected stations are WNWO Toledo, Ohio; KTVL Medford, Ore.; KPTM Omaha, Neb.; WGFL Gainesville, Fla.; and KPTH Sioux City, Iowa.
Instead of regularly scheduled local news, starting May 15 the stations will air The National Desk.
The WEYI layoffs were first reported by FTVLive in mid-March. The publication also noted that Sinclair laid off newsroom employees at WACH Columbia, S.C.; WGXA in Macon, Ga.; and KAEF Eureka, Calif. Those stations also replaced local news shows with The National Desk.
TVSpy also reported in March that “Sinclair’s NBC affiliate WEYI and Fox affiliate WSMH in Flint, Michigan, was told that the local morning and weekend evening newscasts on both stations and the weekday 5 p.m. on WEYI are going away. We hear at least some time slots will be replaced by The National Desk.”
Yet Sinclair’s National Desk is no substitute for locally-driven news in these communities. The program, which launched in January 2021, devotes much of its programming to national rather than local news stories, and has aired numerous false or misleading claims about topics such as immigration, the COVID-19 pandemic (even during its very first episode), proposals to reduce gun violence, President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, and various legislative proposals. Sinclair has even used The National Desk to propagate antisemitic stereotypes about prosecutors supported by progressive philanthropist George Soros, which are also frequently espoused by prominent Republicans.
The National Desk has also aired much, much more right-wing misinformation:
- For immigration commentary, The National Desk repeatedly relied on a former Trump administration immigration official, Mark Morgan, who was employed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform — a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group due to its leaders’ ties to white supremacists and their own racist statements opposing immigration. The program also allowed Morgan to fearmonger that Afghan refugees may be terrorists and likened asylum seekers to murderers.
- On the economy, The National Desk repeatedly aired false claims about Biden’s economic agenda from corporate front groups, including a bizarre lie that the president’s bipartisan infrastructure bill would cost $400 trillion.
- For discussion about energy policy, The National Desk turned to other industry front groups to push pro-fossil fuel propaganda, while also bizarrely attacking the Biden administration for promoting electric vehicles.
- On the COVID-19 pandemic, The National Desk misinformed viewers about the effectiveness of mitigation measures and also welcomed guests who were skeptical of vaccination or pushing fake medical treatments.
- Regarding education policy, The National Desk heavily promoted right-wing attacks on school curricula on race and inequality while giving a spotlight to GOP-aligned groups dedicated to purging books about racism LGBTQ people.
- And on democracy, The National Desk has platformed pro-insurrection lawmakers while promoting 2020 election and January 6 conspiracy theories, and aired lies about Democratic voting rights legislation.