Local TV news has been a polarizing force in American culture for decades.
Some people enjoy tuning into these broadcasts before bed to recap what they missed throughout the workday. Some like viewing the local news upon waking up in the morning to check the weather and traffic. And many don’t watch local news at all, whether it be because of the tragic stories or a general lack of interest.
However, many Americans who do choose to tune in may not be noticing that the largest local TV news broadcaster in the country is slipping in forced political messages for its anchors to read.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 193 TV stations in the U.S., last month made dozens of its stations across the country read a message on-air during their respective broadcasts, according to a Monday article in The New York Times.
The message included the following lines: “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
The “forced read,” as Deadspin video director Timothy Burke said in the article, reached millions of American viewers.
A March 7 CNN report quoted local station anchors who were uncomfortable reading the message but had no choice in doing so.
Sinclair is currently attempting to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, but the deal is being held up over antitrust concerns, according to the Times article.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are also calling for the Tribune merger to be rejected.
President Trump weighed in on the controversy Monday with a tweet that said, “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, told The New York Times last year that his company does its best to stay neutral with its reporting.
“I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center,” he said, “and we work very hard to be in the center.”
But, according to the Times, Sinclair sends video segments to the stations it owns, including videos of “commentators speaking in support of President Trump.”
Trump’s and Livingston’s comments are no surprise.
Trump has been fighting his war on “fake news” since he launched his presidential campaign, and Livingston is just giving the company line.
It’s up to the American people to decide for themselves if Sinclair’s “forced reads” are problematic.
But it is the duty of Americans to thoroughly examine the sources of the news they receive, whether it be in print, on TV or online.
A well-informed, unbiased public is more essential now than ever before.