According to the New York Times, Sinclair Broadcasting Group -- a conservative news network run by GOP donor Daniel Smith -- is requiring affiliate stations to run right- wing programming that includes debunked stories favorable to President Donald Trump.
With Sinclair's potential acquisition of Tribune Media Group, concerns that they might exert their allegedly pro-Trump bias over a majority of American news stations is growing.
The article claims that Sinclair requires news stations they own to broadcast "must-runs" -- news packages created by the network such as one issued by the company's vice president of news Scott Livingston that decried biased media and positioned themselves as bastions of journalistic objectivity. Stations are reportedly required to broadcast these must-runs within 48 hours of receiving them from the network.
Sinclair currently owns 173 stations in many large media markets, and with their purchase of Tribune, they would own 42 more and could then control up to 70 percent of all American broadcast media.
In 2013, the Seattle Times ran an article critical of Sinclair's conservative bias, as evidenced by their treatment of Democratic candidates such as John Kerry, the subject of a critical documentary aired just before the 2004 election. According to KOMO employees, Sinclair reportedly ran a story "critical of the newspaper industry" and of the Seattle Times specifically in response.
Along with the must-runs, reporters at Seattle's KOMO news station told the Times that they were once subject to a strange request from their editor -- to investigate a (now debunked) advertisement for "paid protesters". They soon learned that the request came down from Sinclair's corporate HQ.
Despite Livingston's assertion that Sinclair works "very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle," reporters at KOMO told the Times a different story. They complained -- under condition of anonymity -- that the must-runs are “too politically tilted” and "occasionally of poor quality," and a union representative for photojournalists at KOMO said their union members have expressed dissatisfaction as well.
"It's something that's very troubling to our members," Dave Twedell, the KOMO union rep, told the Times. "I have not found one of our members who is supportive of our company's position."