On March 31, Deadspin produced a video showing a chorus of local news anchors delivering the exact same scripted speech to viewers.
The message – denouncing media bias and fake news, calling it a problem that is “neither politically ‘left nor right’” – might seem innocuous enough.
But I study the media industry, and it really does represent a radical departure from how local television news has traditionally operated.
These news anchors all work for the same parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 193 local broadcast stations across the country.
You might think that your local television stations – with names like WXYZ-TV, KXAN or KMOV – are owned by national networks like ABC or Fox. But that’s often not the case; they are merely affiliated with the national network. Most are owned by companies called “station groups” that have purchased a portfolio of stations in different cities with different network affiliations.
Tribune Media, Nexstar and Tegna are examples of station groups. Sinclair is the biggest.
It was once the case that most stations were local, independently owned businesses. But during the 1970s, these individual stations started to be absorbed by station groups, which were able to take advantage of new technologies to achieve economies of scale. Instead of performing all operations at the local level at every station, they found they could save money by centralizing many tasks, from buying and selling advertising, to designing the computer graphics that air during news segments.
Today, owning many stations and centralizing these back-end tasks are common in the broadcast business. What isn’t common is what the Deadspin video shows. As far as I know, no other station group has written news scripts and required local stations to deliver them.
In fact, it’s a practice that directly goes against U.S. broadcast policy, which asserts that local stations should serve their geographic communities and be allowed to refuse content offered by national networks. Sinclair, however, has dubbed these scripts “must runs.” The company also produces complete news stories and commentaries that it requires local stations to air.
The script in the Deadspin video has fueled a partisan backlash, and many have pointed out that Sinclair’s “must-run” content often advances a conservative point of view.
However, the most important part of the story isn’t the question of partisan bias. It’s that a national station group is forcing content on local stations. To many, what Sinclair is doing is precisely what U.S. broadcast policy is supposed to protect against: a single company advancing an agenda to a majority of the country using the public good of broadcast spectrum.
With Sinclair’s pending purchase of Tribune Media’s 42 stations, the company’s reach is only poised to grow.
The pundit class is freaking out about socialism — and they’re utterly clueless about where politics is headed
On Saturday, Jonah Goldberg, the well-known conservative pundit, tweeted approvingly an article by Jonathan Chait, the well-known liberal pundit. Chait was writing in a mode critics often call “Democrats in Disarray!” He was worried that Joe Biden might be too old to lead a party too far left to be led anywhere next year.
In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, an exotic political theory promoted by the party’s most left-wing flank suddenly gained wide circulation. The appeal of Bernie Sanders proved Democrats were ready to embrace socialism, or at least something close to it; and Donald Trump’s election proved a nominee with extreme positions could still win. These two conclusions, in combination, suggested the party would move as far left as activists preferred at no political cost (all italics mine).
The Democrats’ weird quasi-impeachment process is basically as bad as doing nothing
House Democrats are finally pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump. Or maybe not. It depends on whom you ask, and when. “The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a resolution that some Democrats say amounts to opening an impeachment inquiry while others say it means nothing,” reported The Huffington Post last week. A day earlier, The New York Times had reported that “the second-ranking House Democrat, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, was unequivocal: An impeachment investigation of President Trump is not underway.” A day later, he backtracked. On Monday, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler announced that a hearing scheduled for today would be designated “as an impeachment hearing.”
Trump is a wannabe dictator in training
In a view shared by many, it is easy to believe that what Donald Trump really wants is not to be president of the country, but dictator of it.
Indeed, he has suggested how good it might be for him to enjoy a third term, perhaps more, even though the Constitution forcefully forbids it.
In a Father's Day tweet he fantasized over the possibility, suggesting the public might “demand” that he serve a third term. The [good news], he wrote, “is that at the end of six years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT)….”