"This is extremely dangerous to our democracy," Jimmy Kimmel says after learning of Sinclair Broadcast Group's tactics.
A new video compilation shined a light on the "must-run" news practices of Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of approximately 170 local news stations nationwide. In the video, multiple local newscasters can be seen reading the same story verbatim about the battle against "fake stories" and "false news" -- a common cry of President Trump -- which raised alarm bells in Hollywood and beyond.
"Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think'," reads the script as acquired by Seattle PI. "This is extremely dangerous to a democracy."
And yet, many on Twitter felt that this is exactly what Sinclair was doing by forcing its anchors to read this and other stories with a conservative bias. On March 21, Sinclair broadcasters were required to read a story written by the parent company on the so-called "Deep State," and this is nothing new. In 2004, the company fired a reporter for speaking out against stations being forced to air what he believed was a propaganda film against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, according to CNN.
This latest story could be seen as these Sinclair-owned local stations getting out in front of this "fake news" narrative by implying that they aren't a part of the problem, it's those other (non-Sinclair) stations. In other words, it's setting the stage for a media war.
John Oliver did an extended segment on Sinclair's business practices on his HBO series "Last Week Tonight" last year, which you can see below. In it, he spotlighted the company's practice of forcing local newscasters to read stories manufactured at its corporate headquarters that would seem to push a conservative agenda.
He brought this up to make people aware of the company's propaganda-like techniques even as they continued their efforts to acquire Tribune Media, which would see the number of Sinclair stations grow to include 70 percent of the national television market. That move needs FCC approval, but recent actions there would seem to indicate this shouldn't be too large of a hurdle.
As the video began to make the rounds late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, more and more politically-minded celebrities, media personalities and general citizens were sounding the alarms that this is not okay, and it's certainly not what an independent media in a true democracy looks like. See some of their most passionate responses below.
This is a terrifying look at how precisely Sinclair media is controlling their message. This IS extremely dangerous to our democracy. Painful and necessary viewing.— Joss Whedon (@joss) April 1, 2018
(It does help if you imagine every one of them breaking into “God I hope I get it” at the end) https://t.co/CufPCEoGqT
Watch this video. Read this article. Sinclair Broadcast Group is buying up local stations all over the country & using them to push their extremely biased agenda. https://t.co/AYvb2oYk5t— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 1, 2018
Sinclair doing authoritarianism with insidious style. The *soldiers* blindly following orders no questions asked.— LiliTaylor (@lilitaylor) April 1, 2018
You can say, “ I don’t want to read this” https://t.co/NtOK38oZ9y
Find out if any of your local stations are owned @WeAreSinclair (Sinclair Broadcast Group). If so, make sure to boycott watching them so advertisers drop. This is what corporate authoritarian propaganda looks like. #BoycottSinclair https://t.co/tZDQWBkm5v— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) April 1, 2018
If you're watching a Sinclair station, you're as dumb a rube as they are counting on you to be. And if you work at one, as big a whore. https://t.co/fOd35Il4oW— David Simon (@AoDespair) April 1, 2018
this is extremely dangerous to our democracy https://t.co/D1T8Z7J2Wn— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) April 1, 2018
🔥🔥Sinclair broadcasting, right wing local media giant, hired a reporter from Russian propaganda outlet RT. She produced a segment on the deep state featuring Gorka that all stations were forced to play.https://t.co/pbaz1e3qJn— Adrienne ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ (@ImagineWorldas1) March 30, 2018
This is some dystopian shit right here...Sinclair media forcing news anchors at stations they own to read a script defending the president and attacking the media: https://t.co/AEEtrCJBDn— Hank Green (@DeleteThisPod) March 31, 2018
The same script was sent to Sinclair stations across the US. This looks like the news media of China, controlled by the Communist Party. https://t.co/SOHXfA0WJC— Edward Wong (@comradewong) March 31, 2018
Sinclair, America's largest local TV owner, turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump's war on the media. It's one of the most Orwellian things I've ever seen https://t.co/XOZqlNfoC6 pic.twitter.com/kk7LngI7la— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) April 1, 2018
It's not just FoxNews to worry about. Sinclair Broadcasting Network which owns more local stations than any media company in the US. Sinclair, also a pro-Trump/GOP network has instructed news anchors (company wide) to denounce 'Fake (REAL) News' onair to support the GOP agenda.— Ken S (@Bennyfromottawa) March 26, 2018
FCC is about to approve the merger that will give Sinclair Media control over local news channels that reach 70% of the US population. Currently, they reach 40%. The FCC won't do anything to stop this under Adjit Pai. He's enabling it.— Anita Allen (@drmammal) April 1, 2018
Sinclair Broadcast Group has an unprecedented amount of power over our news, controlling programs nationwide. If you don't want the equivalent of far-right state-run media, then check out this list and RT for others. https://t.co/3YTryCilH7— Safonda (@Patriotpssy) April 1, 2018
How do we battle Sinclair Media? How do we stop the complete gaslighting of middle America by their local news stations? I’m gonna need someone of honor to buy Fox or start buying up the local stations @Oprah @TomSteyer @WarrenBuffett #SomeOneSaveUs— ✌🏻JustSayin' 🇺🇸 (@JustLolatalkin) April 1, 2018
Coming from the same paid source, Sinclair Media, these stations are owned by a Republican media group, they are forced to state these opinions to make it appear that it's coming from your local Newsman but really from a Sinclair central. It's indoctrination, a con job. pic.twitter.com/BuOtKReAux— 𝕃𝕒_𝔸𝕧𝕚𝕠𝕟 (@La_Avion_) April 1, 2018
When you add this together with the expansion of Sinclair Broadcasting to 72% share of the market and Sinclair requiring specific wording from all of their newscasters -- we have a BIG problem brewing. State run media is here.— KatieDid (@katesch64415070) April 1, 2018
This is highly distressing. Sinclair Corp is forcing its local anchors to try to undermine people’s faith in the media, in the process making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. https://t.co/WIOxyYurw1— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) April 1, 2018