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Domonoske writes: "A video published by sports news site Deadspin over the weekend revealed dozens of TV anchors from Sinclair Broadcast Group reciting the same speech warning against 'biased and false news.'"

Video Reveals Power of Sinclair, as Local News Anchors Recite Script in Unison

Camila Domonoske, NPR

03 April 18


One company. One script. Many, many voices.

A video published by sports news site Deadspin over the weekend revealed dozens of TV anchors from Sinclair Broadcast Group reciting the same speech warning against "biased and false news."

It was the latest show of the vast reach of a company that owns local TV stations across the country and has long been criticized for pushing conservative coverage and commentary onto local airwaves.

Sinclair required local anchors to record promos where they denounce "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country" and say that "some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.' "

Sinclair says it is simply warning viewers about the dangers of fake news circulating on social media.

But media critics see a powerful company using local journalists to parrot one of President Trump's most consistent talking points — an allegation that the mainstream media cannot be trusted.

Sinclair owns more than 190 TV stations across the country, more than any other media company, and is seeking to acquire dozens more by purchasing Tribune Media. The Federal Communications Commission has allowed the company to consolidate more power and centralize more news production.

Last spring, reporting on the company's ambitions, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik wrote, "If history is any guide ... Sinclair Broadcast will also pull news coverage on those stations in a more conservative direction and explore giving full rein to those beliefs on a national platform."

The broadcasting behemoth has a consistently conservative, pro-Trump bent and has required local stations to run right-wing commentary segments, including segments by former Trump advisers. (Last summer, John Oliver lambasted that practice in a segment on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.)

And Sinclair has previously denounced fake news stories in a segment, recorded by a news executive, that local stations were instructed to air last year.

But instructing local TV anchors to read a script like this in their own voices is a new development.

Deadspin's video stops at a line that it repeats again and again, to drive home the video's critical message: "This is extremely dangerous to our democracy."

The viral video was released after multiple media outlets spent weeks reporting on Sinclair's use of the scripts.

CNN's Brian Stelter first broke the story in early March, reporting that local journalists were uncomfortable with being forced to read promos "echoing President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about 'fake news.' "

Folkenflik spoke with Sinclair's top news executive a week later. Scott Livingston told David that Sinclair's "reporting is nonpartisan" — although the company has been frequently accused of favoring Republicans in news coverage. Livingston said that the news anchor script is "a warning about fake news circulating on social media."

Jane Hall, a professor at American University and a former media critic for Fox News, said that the promo is clearly supporting Trump's condemnation of most news outlets.

"It's naked in the sense that it's forcing people in the news to read something that is a corporate piece of propaganda, in my opinion," she told David.

Then, on Friday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published the script in its entirety.

But it's one thing to see a script; another thing to see it recited in unison. On Friday, the liberal website ThinkProgress released a video showing some samples of local stations airing the segments. And on Saturday, Deadspin published the video that took the Internet by storm.

Sinclair, which is headquartered outside Baltimore, told the Baltimore Sun the script is referencing fabricated stories like "Pope Endorses Trump" or conspiracy theories like "Pizzagate."

"That's the goal of these announcements: to reiterate our commitment to reporting facts in a pursuit of truth," Livingston told the Sun. "We consider it our honor and privilege to deliver the news each night. We seek the truth and strive to be fair."

As David has previously reported, Sinclair "takes not only an ideological line but at times a partisan line. It's been a very pro-Trump line."

Trump has tweeted in support of the media group, calling other news networks "among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with" and saying "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC."

It was a fairly typical Trump tweet — and exactly the kind of message that critics hear echoed in Sinclair's mandatory anchor scripts. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+2 # Benign Observer 2018-04-03 14:37
You can see some of the blinking H-E-L-P-M-E in Morse.

Here's an article about stations and journalists trying to resist, with lots of leaks:

The article says they face huge penalties IF THEY QUIT! Maybe they could just flat-read the message, making it obvious they're being forced?
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-04-03 17:22
This has been happening for a very long time. I saw a dozen video compilations on how TV stations read the exact same script for the case of WMD in Iraq. It was all false news, but it was repeated thousands of times by most media in the US. I believe this story is told in Weapons of Mass Deception by Danny Schecter. I think that is where I saw it.

The same thing is happening with Russiagate. A script is released and it is picked up and repeated thousands of times across the country. No one checks facts or logic. No one reads the story critically. A narrative is being established and media corporations are the ones doing it. Propaganda requires repetition.

Edward Bernays way back in the 1920s said that new organizations were really not in the news business. They were disseminators or conveyor belts for information that the rulers wanted the masses to know. They broadcast what the rulers think we should know.

The content of the video above is far more important than the fact that it is a boilerplate script read by hundreds of news readers. The content is the propaganda narrative about fake news.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-04-04 06:54
A valuable analysis should be made for each discrete story. Let's say the Skripal poisoning case. Almost no media in the US has sent actual reporters to the UK to talk with people from the hospital, Porton Down labs, local police, and so on. Rather 99% of US media has taken the story or the narrative as presented by the British government and written up by news producers and then published it verbatim, as if it were true.

The story is actually being heavily debunked by real investigative journalists, but their stories just don't make it into mainstream press.

And then governments around the world and the UN make decisions based on mainstream media narratives. So they expel Russian ambassadors and condemn Russia.

Another case for close analysis would be the Israeli shooting of nearly 1000 protesters in Gaza. Good facts are coming out if you look hard for them. But the mainstream media in the US are all reading the same script. This is how a propaganda system works. It is not journalism.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-04-04 06:57
Here's one more compilation. I've seen dozens of these but often the clips are hard to find on Youtube.