Feb 10, 2018

Sinclair asks its news directors for political contributions

WJLA is a Sinclair-owned station in the Washington market. Photo: ABC 7 / WJLA.com

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest owner of local television stations in the United States, has asked its executive staff to contribute to the broadcasting giant's political action committee in order to support the conglomerate's push for deregulation in local media markets, per The Washington Post. Sinclair's executive staff includes the company's news directors at local stations — who hold important editorial roles.

Why it matters: As The Post writes, "[E]ncouraging the news directors of its many stations to contribute to its political effort, in the view of some experts, breaches a long-standing ethical obligation among journalists."

Sinclair's ask to its executive team: "Please take the time to evaluate the importance that the Sinclair PAC can have towards benefiting our company and the needs of the industry as a whole."

  • Their defense: News directors were included in the ask because of their executive — not editorial — status, and Sinclair told the post that reporters, anchors, or other editorial employees were not similarly solicited.

The problem: If news directors did contribute to Sinclair's PAC, it could create valid questions about local stations' impartiality, especially when reporting on topics like the state of their local media market or deregulation more generally.

This isn't the first time that conservative-leaning Sinclair has waded into politically sensitive territory:

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  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 153,246 — Total deaths: 2,828 — Total recoveries: 5,545.
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  4. State updates: Virginia and Maryland issued stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states — Florida megachurch pastor arrested for refusing to call off mass services.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a Monday press briefing that he won't get into a political tussle with President Trump — calling it "counterproductive" and "anti-American" — as his state deals with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

The backdrop: Trump said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends" earlier Monday that Cuomo has received high polling numbers during the outbreak because New York has received federal aid.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued stay-at-home orders on Monday, with exceptions for residents engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions.

The big picture: The states are the latest to announce policies to enforce social distancing, which have affected almost 250 million Americans. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide had been asked to stay home as of last week.

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