Monday, April 02, 2018

Candidate pulls ads from Sinclair station over company-written script attacking other news media, calls for boycott

A congressional candidate in a Democratic primary for a Republican-held seat in Kentucky says she pulled all ads from a Lexington television station owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and is calling on all Democratic candidates nationwide to follow suit. 

Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot running in the Sixth District, responded to the recent revelation that Sinclair forced dozens of local news anchors at its stations to recite a script warning viewers about fake news and accusing other news media of using "their platforms to push their own personal bias," Jacey Fortin and Jonah Engel Bromwich report for The New York Times.

Sinclair, the nation's largest owner of television stations, has been criticized for asking its stations' news directors to donate to its conservative political action committee and forcing local stations to run pro-Republican content. UPDATE: Many Sinclair stations don't do their own news, but hire other stations to do it, and that is the case with WDKY, the one that serves the Sixth District. Anchor Marvin Bartlett said  he had not been asked to read it, and his nightly news report is independently produced by Lexington's WKYT.

McGrath said in a press release, "Sinclair’s corporate-mandated 'must-read' right-wing script on its nearly 200 television stations about 'fake news' is itself an extreme danger to our democracy and eerily mimics the propaganda efforts that authoritarian regimes often use to control the media in their own country. I call on all Democratic candidates across the country to take a firm stand against this frightening development to our democracy and refuse to buy advertising time on all Sinclair-owned television stations. Through the power of a boycott, and how we use our supporters' contributions, we can stand up to this threat to our independent media and send a firm message that these actions will not be tolerated in a nation where the freedom of the press is vital."

McGrath is in a May 22 primary with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray for the nomination to face three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr. Gray campaign manager Jamie Emmons told CNN they would stay on WDKY. "Sinclair's approach is a disgrace to journalism, but we're not going to write people off just because of the TV shows they watch," Emmons said. "If we cut and run, then the people trying to spread this garbage are the only ones doing the talking."

CNN notes, "Sinclair has defended its script as a 'corporate news journalistic responsibility promotional campaign'." In another story, it quoted an anonymous investigative reporter at a Sinclair station as saying, "It sickens me the way this company is encroaching upon trusted news brands in rural markets."

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