Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. Despite being America’s largest broadcaster, Sinclair Broadcast Group has traditionally flown under the radar. They may own, operate or provide services to 233 television stations across 108 markets, but the powerful company has never been a household name to the same extent that, say, Fox News has. However, Sinclair Broadcast Group was recently thrust into the spotlight when it was discovered that they were forcing news anchors across their networks to recite hauntingly scripted “promos” decrying the rise of “fake news” in America.
While perhaps seemingly harmless at first glance, this discovery reveals a blatant abuse of power. As the company behind numerous popular news networks, Sinclair Broadcast Group has a duty to the public to provide fair, authentic and multifaceted coverage of newsworthy events and topics. Instead, they have used their many platforms to push a dangerous agenda—one that supports right wing politics and America’s least favorite president. To call this “bad behavior” is quite the understatement, as this revelation
In March of this year, CNN reported on a Sinclair Broadcast Group memo that required news anchors to read a script about the sharing of “biased and false news” on social media. The report brought to light how the media platform was pushing their own personal bias and agenda onto their viewers, even in spite of the anchors’ own feelings about the content. Deadspin’s subsequent video compilation of the same eerie script being read by dozens of news anchors then went viral.
Amanda Lotz, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Michigan, notes that, “As far as I know, no other station group has written news scripts and required local stations to deliver them.” It was an unprecedented occurrence and one that Sinclair is anxious to dismiss. However, the consensus from the public seems to be that Sinclair.Sucks for misleading its audiences and forcing staff to deliver scripted messaging that reads like a hostage video.
Why Does It Matter?
Sinclair Broadcast Group aims to extend their reach, thereby disseminating this corrupt form of “news” across even broader audiences. The company is trying to get the FCC to approve their $3.9 billion purchase of 42 more news stations, which would extend their reach to almost three quarters of American households. The Trump-leaning FCC, with Ajit Pai (an infamous player in the uproar over net neutrality) now at its helm, is breaking down the barriers that ought to restrict the dominant power of any one network.
Not only that, but they have been accused of having conservative-leaning undertones that distort their storytelling and favor particular political candidates all while claiming to be “unbiased.” Sinclair’s “must-run” conservative-pandering content, delivered from a national network to local stations across the country, actually goes against the U.S. Broadcast policy. Local stations must be allowed to reject content served to them from national networks in favor of the content that speaks to their audiences.
What Can We Learn From It?
Authenticity, authenticity, authenticity. The importance of authentic and accountable content cannot be understated in this digital age. Forbes pinned authenticity as a key to any business’s social strategy in 2017 and the same remains true in 2018 and beyond, perhaps even more so in the current political landscape. Jason Dent of Meltwater notes that authenticity is not just morally right, but also financially beneficial for a news network—after all, if people don’t trust you, they will simply change the channel to any of the many other news networks out there. By being authentic and credible brands build themselves a positive reputation, which is an invaluable asset.
Don’t pull a Sinclair. Be authentic, credible and respectful to your audiences. You can even use a .SUCKS domain to solicit candid feedback to help you stay your course and serve your audiences. Accountability is key.
ScriptedNews.Sucks! It is important to call out this bad behaviour for what it is: inauthentic. Authenticity in the media is vital to a healthy, informed political and social landscape. We believe that Inauthenticity.Sucks and that media programming needs to be held to better standards. That’s why Sinclair Broadcast Group gets our first Bad Corporate Behavior Award of 2018.
Be sure to grab SinclairBroadcastGroup.Sucks in honour of our first 2018 Bad Corporate Behavior Award recipient.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Fedorovekb, Shutterstock / 2p2play, Shutterstock / Anthony Ricci