By Ollie Gratzinger | Opinions Editor
Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest telecommunications company in the United States, owning a total of 193 stations across the nation. With an estimated influence in 40 percent of American households, Sinclair has a say in what nearly half of the country’s citizens see on the local news. With that being said, a slew of disconcerting information surrounding the breadth of the network’s conservative slant has come to light. Even though much still remains unknown, the facts are beginning to paint a startling picture that bears a striking similarity to propaganda campaigns of ages past.
On March 31, a video surfaced depicting a compilation of news anchors nationwide reading the same script, which expressed concern over the prevalence of “fake news” in America. Topics addressed included the dangers of legitimate news organizations pushing their own “personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think,” calling such a notion “extremely dangerous to our democracy.” A hilarious notion, if Sinclair wasn’t doing exactly that.
With its owners proud supporters of Donald Trump, Sinclair Broadcasting and the promotional scripts passed down to news anchors offer a radically right-wing perspective, earning praise from the president on Twitter. Word of the Sinclair script has drawn criticism from media watchdogs, and a handful of anchors forced to read it on-air have either quit or come forward to voice their discomfort. According to the New York Post, one anchor was advised against voicing his concerns to the company’s higher ups on the implication that he could be fired.
Sinclair Broadcasting has also required its subsidiaries to run right-wing commentary segments, according to NPR. The New York Times reported that Sinclair also requires the distribution of “must runs” such as “Terrorism Alert Desk,” which keeps viewers updated on terrorist events all around the world.
Despite a seemingly benign exterior based in truth, it remains uncomfortable to think that one of the nation’s largest broadcast groups is using its prevalence to promote one of Trump’s most well-known talking points: the idea that mainstream media can’t be trusted. Beyond that, though, it asserts the point that all mainstream media that lacks a Trumpian slant presents a clear and specific danger to the fundamentals of American democracy.
Fake news presents a real issue in the digital age, when lies can be spread as easily
as the click of the “share” button on Facebook or Twitter. The problem isn’t the existence of fake news, but rather the way it’s defined. So many members of the far right support the wildly incorrect idea that anything slandering their president falls under the category of unfair and generally “fake” media.
However, it’s the responsibility of journalists and news anchors to report the facts in a way that is strictly non-partisan — starting with not reciting the same conservative shtick across the nearly 200 stations in the country — while also ensuring that governing bodies are kept in check. If those true and non-partisan facts make Trump or his administration look bad, that’s hardly the fault of the reporters, and it hardly presents a threat to the American way of life.
The real threat to democracy is the autocratic sentiment found within the idea of making 193 news stations around the United States read the same script insisting that only they, with their right-wing sentiments and pro-Trump appeals, can be trusted by the American people. Malefactors of propaganda under the rule of authoritarian regimes have historically played the part of patriots. We can’t let ourselves fall into the same trap.