CNN had a blockbuster report last week about the seemingly “pro-Trump propaganda” local anchors who work for stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting and what they have been required to produce. They are made to record station promos decrying “fake news” with a script provided by Sinclair, which also demands the stations run the 60- and 75-second spots frequently “to create maximum reach and frequency.”
Sinclair even tells them what to wear: “Black or charcoal suits for men…females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.” Sinclair is also dictating the stations’ local programming.
Most noticeably, pro-Trump commentaries by former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn have cut into local news time. Local journalists have also bristled at so-called “must run” packages about subjects that aren’t relevant to local audiences—but are hot-button stories for conservatives. The “Terrorism Alert Desk” is a regular segment about security threats around the world.
Sinclair’s political bent has been a factor in its pending acquisition of Tribune Media. Sinclair is already the biggest owner of local television stations in the country—with 173 it either owns or operates—and Tribune will give it dozens more, furthering the company’s ambitions. Some analysts believe Sinclair wants to rival Fox News, although officials at Sinclair have rejected those suggestions.
And this is where the FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai comes into the picture. That’s because he is currently under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for possibly having worked just a little too closely with Sinclair in its plans for the Tribune buy-out. There’s also the fact that Pai has pushed through so many new rules that help Sinclair. Fellow commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says, “[a]ll of our media policy decisions have one thing in common: They are all custom built for the business plans of Sinclair Broadcasting.”
Even more damning, Pai is refusing to recuse himself from the agency’s review of Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune.
Pai, who leads the agency “responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations,” is advancing a pro-Trump propaganda effort across the nation. That’s not even considering the threat to our free and open society that his repeal of the open internet portends.