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The Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s sinister scheme in historical context

April 10, 2018

You have all seen it by now. The viral video that shows how numerous TV stations across the US and owned by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, were all reading from the same script, in Orwellian fashion.

The irony of this viral video is that the script used by the dozens of Sinclair-owned TV stations is suggesting that Fake News is growing and that social media propaganda is at the root of the problem.

While there is certainly a great deal of propaganda circulating in a variety of media platforms, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group does not have any credibility when it comes to criticizing biased news.

The Sinclair Broadcasting Group has made it very clear that they endorse the platform and the policies of the Trump Administration. Last year, it was announced that the company was expanding their media empire by buying out the Tribune Company’s TV stations. We reported on this matter, since there are a few TV stations in the area that were owned by the Tribune Company, namely WXMI 17 in Grand Rapids. 

The Sinclair buyout of the Tribune Company was given the green light by the head of the Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai. Under the leadership of Pai, we have already seen the undermining of the internet, when the FCC Chairman made the decision to do away with the policy known as Net Neutrality.

However, what has not been discussed in recent news coverage of the Sinclair/Tribune Company buyout, is the fact that this recent example of media consolidation is the direct result of decades of media de-regulation.

Beginning with the Reagan Administration, there has been a constant process of deregulating media ownership policies, which has allowed greater concentration of media ownership in both the entertainment and news industry.

During the Clinton Administration, the radio industry was deregulated, resulting in a massive consolidation of ownership. This consolidation of radio station ownership also transformed the radio landscape by undermining more locally produced programming, accelerating the growth of syndicated shows like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, decreasing music genres and downsizing staff at local radio stations.

Since the Clinton Administration we have seen additional deregulation in the form of allowing local TV stations to utilize the same video footage, so instead of having numerous TV stations producing independent versions of a particular news story, TV stations are now sharing stock video footage and then using the on air talent to do a voice over of a particular story.

These deregulatory policies have been the direct result of the of the broadcast industry spending millions of dollars to fund political candidates and to lobby elected officials. You can see from this chart that the money coming from the broadcast industry, has been fairly evenly spread between Republicans and Democrats.

This is not the case with every broadcasting corporation, specifically with the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. In a recent article from the Center for Public Integrity, they note that about 80% of their lobbying goes to the GOP, with the Democrats receiving far less. 

While I agree that Sinclair favors the Republican Party, this is not the norm. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group, often referred to as Trump TV, is extremely dangerous. It is dangerous, not just because it is an echo chamber for the current administration, but because it is becoming part of the system of media monopolization.

The consolidation and monopolization of media, particularly news media, should be the enemy of people who want good journalism and an informed citizenry. I understand why people find the Sinclair Broadcasting Group to be dangerous, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this has been the result of a bipartisan effort to deregulate the media, thus creating greater media consolidation. No administration, since the early 1980s has been a champion of independent media, rather every administration since Reagan has engaged in media deregulation. This bipartisan media deregulation gave us the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Something we can not ignore, nor forget.

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