Action alert from CREDO
A conservative media empire that reportedly cut a shady 2016 deal with the Trump campaign is poised to grow even larger – giving it the power to distort news coverage in markets all across the country.1
Sinclair Broadcast Group (“Sinclair”) recently agreed to purchase Tribune Media, a merger that would put Sinclair in front of more than 70 percent of households at a time when most Americans still get their news from local stations.2 All media consolidation is dangerous, but this deal is even more terrifying because Sinclair has a long record of biased, conservative editorial decisions.
In 2016, Jared Kushner bragged that the campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair to provide access to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, in exchange for broadcasting the segments without commentary.3 With an illegitimate regime occupying the White House, we need more media freedom – not less.
Sinclair has a long history of force-feeding local stations “must-run” segments from its national headquarters that often have a conservative bent. The company’s disturbing track record includes:4,5,6
- Striking a sweetheart deal with the Trump campaign, with Jared Kushner claiming that they provided Sinclair greater access in return for less commentary or potentially critical coverage.
- Trying to air a negative documentary attacking Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign, scaling back the plans only after public outrage.
- A 2016 “news package” implying that, since the Democratic party had been pro-slavery in the past, people should not support Sen. Hillary Clinton.
- Accusing the national news media of airing “fake news,” directly parroting Trump’s favorite lines
- Requiring local news anchors to announce their support for President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism following the September 11 attacks.
- Sending a crew to Iraq in 2004 to find more “positive” Iraq War stories to report.
- Airing a 2008 special criticizing then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Sinclair executives are already bragging that this deal would create “the largest TV broadcast company in the country.”7 That prospect is terrifying to anyone who cares about the role of an unbiased, free and independent press in preserving our democracy. We must speak out against this deal.
Television is the main source of news for nearly 60 percent of adults according to Pew Research, and half of those adults depend on local TV.8 For all the richly deserved criticism of Fox News’ biased coverage, a bigger Sinclair would be just as bad. Approving this deal would also send a signal throughout the market and unleash even more corporate media consolidation. Though both seem inclined to help corporations grow even larger, the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division do have the power to block this deal.
We cannot stay silent and allow corporate media mergers to imperil our democracy. We need to make it clear to antitrust enforcers that Americans are tired of ever-more monopolies leaching money out of our pockets and leaving us with fewer choices and less control.
- Josh Dawsey and Hadas Gold, “Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage,” POLITICO, December 16, 2016.
- Sydney Ember and Michael J. de la Merced, “Sinclair Unveils Tribune Deal, Raising Worries It Will Be Too Powerful,” The New York Times, May 8, 2017.
- Dawsey and Gold, “Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”
- Sydney Ember, “Sinclair Requires TV Stations to Air Segments That Tilt to the Right,” The New York Times, May 12, 2017.
- Michael Calderone and Lydia O’Connor, “A Trump-Friendly Media Company Is About To Get Even Bigger,” HuffPost, May 9, 2017.
- Ember and de la Merced, “Sinclair Unveils Tribune Deal, Raising Worries It Will Be Too Powerful.”