Donald Trump defended local TV news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group on Monday as the rightwing news network came under fire for forcing its news anchors to read the exact same script criticizing "fake" news stories.
President Donald Trump came to Sinclair's defense in a pair of tweets, one of which said: "The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are anxious about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast".
The company, which owns 193 local stations across the USA, drew criticism for what some saw as a forced message that undermined the independence of the news organizations.
"More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories... stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first", the script continnues.
"This is extremely risky to our democracy", late night host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted Sunday.
President Trump loved the Sinclair script, which echoes Trump's frequent complaints about the media spreading "fake news" stories.
One of those stations, WICS, is based in Springfield, and owned by this group.
Trump's Monday morning tweet effectively drew more attention to the controversy around the spots. As this Sinclair situation shows, viewers don't know who owns their local stations and what that means for the news they watch.
Older Americans are the most likely to get their news from local television, leaving that group more vulnerable to agenda-driven news cycles.
If Pai allows the Sinclair Network to surpass the threshold, the viewing public will receive biased local news and consequently be more prone to developing one-sided opinions.
Most current Sinclair employees can't speak publicly about the promos, but the practice of mandating anchors to recite such statements is already drawing resistance from one of the Tribune stations that Sinclair plans to take over. It also describes stations owned by Sinclair, a conservative-leaning company that mandates right-leaning programs run, as "neither politically 'left nor right'".
Deadspin received a hat tip from HBO's John Oliver, whose "Last Week Tonight" did a lengthy story on Sinclair last season.
"I don't think it's good for free press".
Media investor Peter Chernin, who held high-ranking positions at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for two decades, tweeted, "This is insidious".
Most of Sinclair's stations are CNN affiliates - meaning CNN shares content and resources with them and vice versa. Epsheteyn commentaries are generally favorable to Trump and his policies, as with his commentary - which aired Sunday during the KATU morning news - about the trade deal between the USA and South Korea "is a win" for American businesses and "our economy", not the start of a trade war. "We've asked people to voice their opposition to Sinclair's plan to merge with Tribune Media, which has yet to be approved".