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What we're reading: Sinclair's quiet conservative media takeover

Sinclair broadcasting group sign.
uiPhoto: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

As consolidation in the media industry has reduced the number of news outlets over the past decade, Sinclair media has managed to imprint its political influence by focusing on local TV markets, writes the New Yorker's Sheelah Kolhatkar in "The Growth of Sinclair’s Conservative Media Empire."

Why it matters: Local news is trusted more than national news, per a poll from the Pew Research Center. As the largest owner of TV stations in the U.S., Sinclair reaches nearly 40% of American viewers with its 192 stations in 89 markets. "Sinclair has largely evaded the kind of public scrutiny given to its more famous competitor, Fox News."

Among the approaches Sinclair has taken:

Sinclair anchors have sometimes been encouraged to read from scripts prepared by the company that display a rhetoric echoing President Trump's talking points.

  • On Sinclair's scripts, Dan Rather tweeted: "News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses."

The company’s executive chairman, David Smith, is a conservative with libertarian views, is suspicions of the government and is against political correctness, Kolhatkar writes.

Many instances in past coverage has shown its biases for President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. "In April, 2004, Sinclair forbade its stations from airing a 'Nightline' special produced by ABC News, called 'The Fallen,' in which Ted Koppel read the names of every member of the U.S. armed forces killed in the war."

The bottom line: 50% of Americans get their news from TV, according to Pew. Sinclair owns more stations in swing states than any other company, which could have huge impact on how people vote in the midterm elections and looking ahead to 2020.

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