TV anchors decrying ‘fake’ news put spotlight on Sinclair Broadcast Group

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(NBC) – In March, TV anchors at broadcast stations across the U.S. began reading from an identical script passed down to them by their owner — Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“We’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country,” the anchors said, reading from the script.

“Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy,” the script continued.

The segments drew the ire of media journalists and watchdogs, many of whom were already closely watching Sinclair for its ties to President Donald Trump and its ambitions to expand its already-sizable U.S. audience.

But the segments didn’t receive widespread attention until Saturday, when the website Deadspin published a 98-second video montage of the TV segments that went viral.

By Monday, the video had put Sinclair back under the media spotlight, leading Trump to tweet in defense of the TV behemoth as “far superior” to its “fake” competitors including “even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

The video and resulting fallout have drawn fresh scrutiny to Sinclair, its politics and the ongoing controversy over its proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of the Tribune Company — a deal that would give Sinclair reach into seven out of 10 U.S. households.

Sinclair’s willingness to push political content on its local broadcast stations has been a topic of contention going back to 2004, when it was criticized for a program that attacked the military record of the Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry just before the election.

Based in Hunt Valley, Maryland, the company has showcased conservative commentators on dozens of its stations. Boris Epshteyn, a Russian-born former Trump adviser, now serves as Sinclair’s chief political analyst.

More recently, the company has mandated that its stations run a segment about the so-called deep state that featured former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who has pushed a pro-America foreign policy position and claimed shadow government employees are trying to undermine the U.S. government.

The injection of politics in Sinclair’s programming was examined last year on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

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