As Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's largest television owner, faces mounting scrutiny for its mandatory scripted segments and pending merger with Tribune Media, a consumer advocacy watchdog is targeting the company with a week-long advertising campaign on several of its own stations.
Allied Progress announced on Thursday a six-figure ad buy to elevate a viral Deadspin video that depicts dozens of news anchors at Sinclair-owned affiliates across the country delivering "scripted propaganda" that bears a striking resemblance to President Donald Trump's frequent attacks on media organizations and weaponization of the term "fake news."
Watch the ad:
"Americans trust local media to deliver objective news about the communities where they live and work, but those watching scores of Sinclair stations around the country last week were instead force-fed politically inspired, anti-media propaganda that should have earned President Trump a writing credit," said Allied Progress executive director Karl Frisch. "That so many local anchors would have to choose between providing for their families and demonstrating sound journalistic integrity only underscores the importance of stopping Sinclair's stated goal of controlling every local news station in the country."
The national discussion about Sinclair's right-wing bias, "must-run" segments, and well established media consolidation goals comes as federal regulators are considering the broadcaster's $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media. Watchdog groups and Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns that Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai's reported ties to the company will influence the outcome, and allege that the cozy relationship has influenced other recent changes to federal regulations.
"We're running these ads to ensure Sinclair's local viewers know the company's politically motivated owners are forcing the anchors they trust to advance a partisan agenda that has nothing to do with news and everything to do with politics. It is important that every American understand this is only the beginning," added Frisch. "If Sinclair's proposed merger with Tribune is approved, the same partisan agenda will reach into 72 percent of U.S. households. As the Sinclair's anchors were forced to say, 'This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.'"
The campaign kicks off on Friday, and the group plans to run the ad on four Sinclair-owned stations: WJLA (ABC News) in Washington, D.C.; KDSM (FOX News) in Des Moines, Iowa; KOMO (ABC News) in Seattle, Washington; and Sinclair's flagship station, WBFF (FOX News) in Baltimore, Maryland.