Monday, July 17, 2017

Sinclair doubles down on pro-Trump commentary that it makes stations run in local news programs

Sinclair is based in Hunt Valley,
Md. (Baltimore Sun photo)
Sinclair Broadcast Group, a mainly small-market company that is trying to get bigger, is telling its 173 stations to run more-than-daily commentaries by a former Donald Trump campaign aide who pitches the Trump line, media critic David Zurawik writes for The Baltimore Sun.

Boris Epshteyn’s commentaries "will now appear eight or nine times a week on all stations, Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s vice president of news, told The Sun. They had previously run three times week on a must-run basis," Zurawik reports. "Since joining Sinclair in April, Epshteyn has consistently parroted Team Trump’s position in 'Bottom Line With Boris' segments. Some of his commentary has come as close to classic propaganda as anything I have seen in broadcast television in the last 30 years." He gives examples, and other cases of questionable Sinclair behavior.

Maryland-based Sinclair, which has been criticized for biased documentaries and making a coverage deal with the Trump campaign, will be adding 42 more stations, many of them in major markets, if the Federal Communications Commission approves its $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media. The deal could put the chain in a position to rival Fox News for audiences seeking conservative or pro-Trump views.

On Sunday's "Reliable Sources" with Brian Stelter on CNN, Zurawik said putting Epshteyn's commentaries in local-news programs, "in the context of these people they've come to trust" as local journalists "is the perfect infrastructure to deliver that centralized message at a local level, which will make it more powerful."

Sinclair's Livingston told Zurawik that Epshteyn’s 90-second segments are “clearly identified as commentary” and are a small part of the chain's programming. “Local news is at the heart of Sinclair. We know that our greatest responsibility is serving our local communities by providing relevant information,” Livingston said.

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