Common Cause, Allies, Rally to Protest Sinclair Merger
Local Broadcast Giant Has Produced "Must-Run" Segments for Its Stations
About 70 activists from groups including Common Cause, Free Press, Color of Change, M Power Change, Demand Progress, the Communications Workers of America, Daily Kos, CREDO, and the United Church of Christ gathered outside a nondescript office building in Hunt Valley, MD last week to protest the planned merger of the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media.
The gathering came as Sinclair shareholders met inside to work on their strategy as the merger plan is reviewed by federal regulators. If approved, the merger will create one of the largest broadcast conglomerates in history, with direct access to more than 70% of Americans. Additionally, Sinclair’s station ownership would jump from 173 stations to more than 200, with many in major markets like Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.
Protesters came in droves because of concerns over Sinclair’s management of local television stations it already owns. Sinclair’s business model includes forcing its local stations to air “must-run” news and commentary produced or written at Sinclair’s headquarters.
The segments have generated harsh criticism from media analysts. They include political commentary from former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn, and an One must-run segment spawned a 1984-esque mashup , which featured news anchors from 66 Sinclair-owned stations reciting the same script accusing rival stations of airing “fake news.” These segments not only eliminate local news but disguise Sinclair’s opinions with the voice of trusted local broadcasters.
Why is Sinclair attempting to hide their exponential growth and takeovers of local stations? Likely because local news is by viewers. Local news also is more likely to reflect the local community and residents’ concerns, and remains more vulnerable to community opinion than vast international organizations run by a handful of powerful executives. Sinclair wants to cash in on this trust while creating one of the largest media companies in the nation.
No doubt that’s exactly why protesters shouted slogans such as “we want local news, not your right-wing views!” at the Sinclair executive board last week. Even Sinclair’s decision to seclude the meeting in a building far from a city center did not prevent citizens from showing up to voice their outrage and concern.
Dillon Slagle is a Common Cause intern.