Sinclar Broadcast Group, a conservative news network run by a GOP megadonor that may soon own 72 percent of the American media market, has enacted a new set of talking points targeting “fake news” that some employees say sounds like “pro-Trump propaganda.”
CNN reported Wednesday that Sinclair, which either owns or operates 173 news stations nationwide, circulated internal documents recently instructing anchors to read a script that decries “biased and false news,” a short leap from President Donald Trump’s “fake news” battle cry.
“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces,” the script, which anchors are instructed to read to the letter, says. “But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” it continues. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think'”
“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy,” the script concludes. “We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”
One Sinclair employee who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from their employers said they felt like a prisoner of war “recording a message” when reading the promo script. Others said that although the script pays lip service to bipartisanship, to them it “belies Sinclair management’s actual agenda to tilt reporting to the right.”
“At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” another employee told CNN.
Scott Livingston, the conglomerate’s senior vice president of news, read the exact script anchors are now instructed to read in a “must-run” segment Sinclair station were required to play on air last year. Sinclair also required its stations to run segments from its “Terrorism Update Desk,” which features former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, last year.
“Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry,” Livingston told CNN in a statement. “This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media [Livingston’s emphasis], and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting. This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”