Journalists and corporate watchdogs reacted with alarm when it was reported last month that the right-wing media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group was planning to force local news anchors to read from a script denouncing "fake" and "false" news stories in a distinctly Trumpian fashion.
But this horror was amplified after Deadspin compiled a video this weekend of what the company's "dangerous" proposal actually looks like in practice.
"The stuff of nightmares," is how one commentator described the end result, which shows news anchors "looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos" and reading directly from a Sinclair-produced "promotional campaign."
The stuff of nightmares.
Deadspin made this video about Sinclair Broadcast Group (America's largest local TV owner) and how it's turning "news anchors into soldiers in Trump's war on the media." pic.twitter.com/iBSJkZAfSd
— Dr. Yasmin (@DoctorYasmin) April 1, 2018
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Sinclair employees and local reporters said they are deeply concerned about the right-wing ideological bent being foisted upon television stations across the United States by the massive media company.
"It sickens me the way this company is encroaching upon trusted news brands in rural markets," one reporter told CNN on the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from Sinclair's management.
"I feel bad because they're seeing these people they've trusted for decades tell them things they know are essentially propaganda," added a local anchor.
Owned by a family of ultra-conservative millionaires, Sinclair currently operates nearly 200 news stations nationwide—and is pushing for even more control of local outlets, with help from the GOP-controlled FCC.
If Sinclair's acquisition of Tribune Media is ultimately approved, the company will own enough stations to reach an estimated 70 percent of American households, sparking concerns that pro-Trump propaganda could begin to dominate local news.
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"I try everyday to do fair, local stories, some Trump-related, but it's always washed out by this stuff they do at a national level," said one local reporter.
Below is the full script dozens of local news anchors have been forced to read under threat of termination:
Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…
(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.
(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.