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:
- The company has gone on an acquisition spree, snapping up local stations across the country — most notably a $3.9 billion pending merger with Tribune Co.
- Democrats are worried about Sinclair's expansion as it looks to expand its local media footprint in 2020 battleground states.
- Sinclair signed on to distribute a TV show from conservative site DailyMail.com last year.
- In 2016, Sinclair forged a deal with Trump's campaign to broadcast his interviews around the country without commentary in exchange for more access to Trump.