The company, which owns 193 local stations across the United States, drew criticism for what some saw as a forced message that undermined the independence of the news organizations.
The existence of the script was reported by CNN almost a month ago, and Deadspin posted a video of news anchors from around the country reading the script to their viewers this past weekend. In the supercut, a seemingly endless parade of local anchors all say the following, verbatim: "Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think".
"This is extremely unsafe to our democracy", late night host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted Sunday. But criticism reached new heights over the weekend when Deadspin stitched together a video showing dozens of anchors reciting the same script in which they criticize the national media over bias and fake news.
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Sinclair's conservative views are a subject of discussion and is a factor as the company is looking to expand by purchasing Tribune Media which is now under review by federal regulators. "[US President Donald] Trump had been tweeting in favor of Sinclair because it has a tendency to take a lot of his talking points, such as fake news, and putting them out over its network of local stations".
In response to the ongoing controversy, Sinclair SVP Scott Livingston sent a memo to stations Monday, which was also obtained by CNN. As this Sinclair situation shows, viewers don't know who owns their local stations and what that means for the news they watch. "Just no credibility", said David Smith, Sinclair's executive to NY magazine in a piece published Tuesday.
This group, forcing their own agenda through local news stations, is far more unsafe than the threat of fake news, which these stations have been spreading so rapidly. If the deal goes through, Sinclair, already one of the largest owners of local news stations in the country, will become even bigger.
"Trump tweeted that the "'Fakers' at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!" The hire was skewered in a 2017 segment on HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver".
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He was incredulous at the criticism Sinclair was receiving and called out other networks for even more widespread use of scripts and mandated messaging.
Sinclair defended the "false news" promo.
"The promos served no political agenda", Sinclair said in a pre-statement intro on its website, "and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information".
If the deal is approved, Sinclair would reach 72 percent of American households.
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Democrats have also chided FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump-appointed Republican, for supporting TV ownership rule changes that would make it easier for the merger to pass regulatory scrutiny.