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5 Things Everyone's Getting Wrong About Sinclair Broadcast Group

The company that brought you that wince-inducing "fake news" promo is not a "monopoly," and cracking down on it will not defend the free press.

"This Pravda-style propaganda," a visibly shaken Joe Scarborough said on his MSNBC show Monday morning, "has to stop." Dan Rather concurred: "It's Orwellian," the veteran newsman tweeted. "A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses." John Oliver, the discreet Superman of American journalism, performed last rites. "A brainwashed cult," he pronounced.

What is it that has the journalistic class manning their battle stations against the totalitarian menace? This Deadspin supercut of the country's biggest name in local TV news, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, beaming out to each one of its markets the exact same promotional message:

"Sinclair's fake-news zombies should terrify you," ran the headline of a David Rothkopf piece at CNN. You can see what he means—especially given the backstory, as reported a month ago by CNN's Brian Stelter, that the notoriously Republicanoid parent company was making local anchors "uncomfortable" by insisting they record the thing word for word. (There has been at least one refusenik.) Sure, many of the melodramatic sentiments contained within the advertorial were virtually indistinguishable from recent promotional campaigns by The New York Times ("factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever" vs. "the truth is more important than ever") or The Washington Post ("this is extremely dangerous to our democracy" vs. "democracy dies in darkness"), but the hostage-video vibe was unmistakable. When reading from the exact same teleprompter language, the least you can do is smile!

That video above and other such cookie-cutter local-TV segments that Conan O'Brien enjoys mocking were brought to you by a company called CNN Newsource, though there is clearly a difference between syndicated goofball content that stations choose to run and heavy-handed "fake news" lectures that they're ordered to broadcast. As one Sinclairite emailed Stelter last night: "It sickens me the way this company is encroaching upon trusted news brands in rural markets."

Still, a certain sense of perspective and proportion has been noticeably absent from this, a story that has captured media imaginations far in excess to the facially unconstitutional assault on free speech that Congress passed just last month. So in order to encourage more media literacy and make even more new friends on Twitter, here is my list of five things people are getting wrong about L'affaire Sinclair:

1) Sinclair is not remotely a monopoly.

(Shakes fist at Gillespie) ||| ReasonReason"Sinclair Is Bad for Democracy. So Are Other Media Monopolies," runs the Washington Monthly headline from David Atkins. "Sinclair Broadcast Group is a Media Monopoly Thanks to Bill Clinton," says Colin Kalmbacher of Law & Crime. "Sinclair Broadcast Group and Media Monopolies, Explained," offers Teen Vogue's Danielle Corcione. None of these pieces manage to explain how a company currently prohibited from operating two of the top four stations in a given television market meets any of the various definitions of monopoly.

Sinclair mostly owns and occasionally operates 193 local TV stations across the country (or "nearly 250" in the inflationary math of Law & Crime), including affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. (Confused by that? See #3.) As Jack Shafer wrote in Politico last year, "Today, the United States has 1,775 total television stations, about 5,200 cable systems run by 660 operators reaching 90 percent of homes and so many cable channels that TV executives complain about their number. The idea that Sinclair...might banish competing viewpoints from the marketplace reeks of stupidity."

According to Pew Research, only 9 percent of Americans view television without aid of cable, satellite, or internet connection. When we talk about Sinclair's market share and potential "monopoly" status, we're talking about that 9 percent—and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently blocks single companies from owning 50 percent of even that narrow slice, though it sometimes issues waivers based on a complicated and evolving formula. So as measured by the way human beings actually consume audiovisuals, Sinclair has a fraction of the market. Even as measured by the way just 1 out of every 11 people watch TV, the company in practice has an average market share in the "low" 20s, according to Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in an earnings call last November.

You will these days hear frequent scare-numbers about Sinclair's potential coast-to-coast reach—"a staggering 72 percent of the national audience," warns Norman J. Ornstein. Echoed Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart on MSNBC yesterday: "More than 70 percent of the country is going to be...watching 'news' from Sinclair Broadcasting."

Please note: This number does not describe market share. Nor does it characterize Sinclair's current reach, which is far smaller.

The 72 percent figure describes the number of households that would have access to Sinclair channels if A) its troubled merger with Tribune Co. is approved by both the Justice Department (which has raised antitrust concerns) and the FCC (which is assessing the public-interest angle), and B) those approvals come without the government forcing Sinclair to sell off stations, which in turn would only happen if C) the FCC goes through with a proposed UHF/VHF measurement change. Given that Sinclair has already announced it will sell off stations to meet regulatory approval, and that the Justice Department is increasingly interested in media antitrust, and that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is currently under investigation for whether he pushed ownership rule changes improperly to grease the skids for the Sinclair-Tribune merger, and that this week's fallout from the promo video is increasing the calls to block the deal, the odds of that 72 percent figure becoming reality are roughly zero.

But let's pretend for a moment that 72 percent of households nationwide have access to Sinclair-operated stations, rather than its current 39 percent. What kind of "staggering" reach is that? Well, here are the types of TV networks you see at the three-in-every-four-households level: Create. Ion Television. Bounce TV. Ever heard of them? It's true, more people watch local news than niche cable content (on which more below). But there is no way on God's green earth that seven out of 10 Americans will be watching Sinclair's broadcasts, ever.

The misapplied word "monopoly" is an open invitation for the government to use prohibitive force in the name of freedom. As Atkins writes at the Washington Monthly, "Preserving democracy will require breaking up the monopolistic corporate control of media across all media platforms. Facebook and Google must control far less of our news. Sinclair must be broken up and local news content remanded back to local control. Clear Channel must be broken apart, and a greater variety of voices must be allowed to flourish while AM/FM radio is still a part of people's media diets. The very few corporations that control the vast majority of our news and programming must forced to break apart as well. Only then will a true diversity of voices be born." Don't say you haven't been warned.

2) Sinclair is not Uncle Grandpa's single source of news.

In a spirited MSNBC exchange with me about Sinclair yesterday, Capehart fretted, "What happens when you only have one source [of news]?...And that one source is perpetuating falsehoods and lies?"

The word "have" there papers over two separate concepts that are routinely conflated in discussions about journalism-consumption: media diet and media access. Media diet is what we choose to consume (so, replace "have" in the sentence above with "use"); media access would turn the verb into "have access to." Libertarians are concerned with the latter. Anti-media-consolidation types routinely invoke the former—i.e., the ungood media choices that Uncle Grandpa makes.

So is Uncle Grandpa really trapped in a world with no choices? Well, as mentioned above, only 9 percent of adults consume TV through an antenna (as of last August). Only 11 percent do not go online. Only 15 percent do not access news on mobile devices. And just 23 percent do not get at least some news on social media. That leaves the maximum share of Americans living in comparative information deserts (which will nonetheless be likely to have at least some print media and radio, at minimum) at 9 percent, likely smaller. Are these all old coots barking at the TV?

Many of them, sure. One third of senior citizens do not use the Internet. The olds also like to watch more TV news—82 percent, compared to 23 percent of adults under 30. But here's a crazy stat: More people aged 65 or over have a cable or satellite subscription (84 percent) by far than any other age cohort; and only 7 percent use an antenna. And even within that remaining 7 percent slice, let's not forget that Sinclair is generally prohibited from owning two of the top four stations in a given market—ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all reach 97 percent of the country. If Uncle Grandpa is watching only his Sinclair local, or maybe Sinclair + Fox News, that's his choice in a competitive media market.

In fact, all the media-consumption velocity these days is of older folk adopting newer technologies at the direct expense of local TV news. "The share of non-internet users ages 65 and older decreased by 7 percentage points since 2016," reports Pew in one survey. "For the first time in the Center's surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016." Result?

Americans are relying less on television for their news. Just 50% of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016. But that audience drain varies across the three television sectors: local, network and cable. Local TV has experienced the greatest decline but still garners the largest audience of the three, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The journalism establishment, long contemptuous of local television's tabloid vapidity, is now panicking about it precisely when its influence is heading toward the edge of a cliff.

3) Sinclair is the product of anti-media-consolidation rules.

Ever wonder why a rando Maryland company like Sinclair could own and operate Big Four TV stations? A good deal of the credit goes to rules that were supposed to stop media consolidation. Indeed, those regulations enabled precisely the kind of cronyism that many critics of the Sinclair-Tribune merger are warning about this week. I hand the floor over to former FCC Chief Economicst Thomas W. Hazlett:

[S]tation limits do virtually nothing to stop "media concentration." And, ironically, the very existence of Sinclair as the country's largest TV station group owner is a product, to a very large degree, of just these rules.

Sinclair arises in the niche carved out by the limits imposed by the FCC on broadcast networks. Those companies fund far more quality journalism in both national and local news markets. But with FCC rules limiting their transmissions, firms like Sinclair rush in, protected from "Big Media" competition.

In reality, broadcast networks pump their shows all across the U.S.A. CBS owns no broadcast outlet in Greenville, S.C.—or Seattle or Houston or Washington, D.C. Yet its shows, from "The Big Bang Theory" to "60 Minutes," reach TV sets everywhere. They travel through CBS broadcast affiliates, cable, and satellite where they compete with the programs of national cable networks: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Bloomberg, BBC America and Vice. What matters to consumers is the variety of their program choices, not where they get it.

So who cares about the station cap? Private equity funds and Wall Street deal-makers. They create "station group owners" that fill the void when networks are barred from owning their affiliates. Then they lobby to get the rules relaxed, inviting more bidding, pushing up station prices. It's an insider's game in an intra-industry skirmish.

4) Political slant is not a good reason for media antitrust.

You might think that the newspaper industry, whose left-of-center tilt is so lopsided that you can measure the percentage of self-identified Republican journalists in the single digits, might be shy about invoking "political bias" as a reason for the government to block a media company's expansion. And you'd be wrong.

Here's the Boston Globe editorial page:

The [Sinclair promo] has the feel of state-run television, unmistakably echoing President Trump's harangues against the media. Little surprise that he tweeted a defense of Sinclair, and an attack on "Fake News Networks," on Monday morning as outrage spread.

Already the largest owner of local television stations in the country, Sinclair is proposing a $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media's 42 stations. Here in New England, that would mean the broadcaster, which already owns stations in Rhode Island and Maine, would have a presence in Connecticut—subjecting even more of the region's viewers to the dubious "must-run" segments Sinclair regularly foists on its affiliates.

That's not just speeches by anchors. There are also centrally produced stories, like one that ran suggesting voters shouldn't back Hillary Clinton because of the Democratic Party's proslavery history.

The broadcaster's political bias may not even be the most compelling reason to restrain its growth.

How can I put this gently? You don't want the federal government in the business of picking journalism winners and losers based on its perception of their biases. To invoke Donald Trump as a reason for doing so is one of the dumbest displays of logic I have ever seen on a newspaper editorial page. And that's saying something.

5) The media industry is uncommonly dynamic.

Fewer than two decades ago, many of the same people going crazy over Sinclair this week were pounding the drum for antitrust action, using the same dystopian language ("new totalitarianism"!), because...AOL bought Time-Warner. The hysteria was ludicrous on its face, yet pointing that out at the time was a lonely business.

Back then, newspaper companies still routinely made 20 percent profit margins, Washington's antitrust technology panic was centered on Microsoft's Web browser, and Mark Zuckerberg was in high school. It's almost a banality to point out that things in this sphere change rapidly, and yet the whole premise of media regulation is to stand athwart creative destruction, yelling "Slow down!" We bitch on Twitter about Sinclair's media monopoly after watching an MSNBC segment on our iPhones with a YouTube app.

Being afraid of Sinclair right now is a lot like worrying about the Gannett newspaper chain in 1999. Both are unlovable, acquisition-happy cost-cutters who look to dominate rapidly shrinking legacy markets while praying for some New Media lifeline to save them when the profits dry out. As ever, business models that rely on captive, sedentary audiences do not have a bright long-term future. Sinclair, too, shall die.

How hard is it for a single company to dominate a local journalism market, even temporarily? Take a look: "Industry research firm BIA/Kelsey divides the local $147.8 billion local advertising pie as so: broadcast TV, 13.4%, cable, 4.5%; digital and mobile's 22.2%; radio, 9.6%; print newspaper, 8.3%; direct mail, 25.5%; and other, 16.5%."

So yes, Sinclair's promotional video was gruesome, if perhaps not quite the harbinger of incipient despotism. Making employees read proof-of-life messages is no way to retain talent, or to prevent more viewers from abandoning local TV news. The proper response is not to mobilize the federal government on journalistic, political, or even media-concentration grounds. The proper response is to point in the direction of corporate HQ, and laugh.

Bonus video: Thomas Hazlett on media regulation:

Photo Credit: NBC News

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "This Pravda-style propaganda," a visibly shaken Joe Scarborough said on his MSNBC show Monday morning, "has to stop." Dan Rather concurred: "It's Orwellian," the veteran newsman tweeted

    Is it as Orwellian as a German head of state chiding a media company exec to start shutting down dissenting voices, and getting instant compliance from him and several of the largest media companies around?

  • granite state destroyer||

    Right, neither of those things are particularly "Orwellian". Authoritarian maybe.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    1) Sinclair is not remotely a monopoly.

    It seems that in these here modern times, a Monopoly is defined as anything that's just kind of big. The 'mono' part has lost all meaning.

  • Zeb||

    And even if they did have a monopoly, who the fuck watches local TV news for anything other than weather and sports?

  • SIV||

    You watch local news for the crime coverage. Dindu Nuffin' was just turning his life around...

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Haven't watched local news since ... I can't even remember ...

  • ByteRot||

    We should replace the word with "megopoly".

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You will these days hear frequent scare-numbers about Sinclair's potential coast-to-coast reach—"a staggering 72 percent of the national audience," warns Norman J. Ornstein.

    It's Russian Troll Facebook Math. There was an ad on Facebook. Facebook has eleventy billion accounts. Therefore the Facebook ad reached and changed the minds of eleventy billion people, QED.

  • John||

    I had no idea such a thing even existed until a couple of days ago. I mean, the horror. Someone started a news service that gives the stories and spin they like. I mean Jesus H. Christ where do they get the nerve doing that? What do they think they have? The right to freedom of the press or something?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's interesting that they're doubling down on the idea that they are pure of bias and guile.

  • John||

    Which part of "their spin" do you not understand? Can you not read? I have no idea how biased they are nor do I care. It is a free country

  • John||

    For anyone in the major media to complain about a news source feeling like "State-run news" is pretty fucking rich. State-run news is what most of the media was for the entire Obama Presidency. These stupid fuckers would do anything to be "state-run news". Journalists in totalitarian countries are given positions of importance and very nice livings. All they have to be is a hack for the government. It is the dream job of every know nothing 20 something liberal arts major writing on the internet. And they think anyone believes them when they act like "state run media" is a bad thing to them. Give me a break.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The disaffection among these passed-by, passed-over right-wingers is strong.

  • Just Say'n||

    "Dan Rather concurred: "It's Orwellian," the veteran newsman tweeted. "A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.""

    We live in an era free of self-reflection. Dan Rather is calling out dishonest journalism. Dan. Rather.

  • Just Say'n||

    "We're now going to bring in Mike Tyson to talk about our society's rape culture and what we can do to combat it"

    - CNN probably in two weeks

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Only because CNN was unable to book STEVE SMITH.

  • Zeb||

    I'm in favor of bringing on Mike Tyson to talk about just about anything. That guy is a national treasure.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Mike Tyson Mysteries is still airing. A show with both Mike Tyson AND Norm MacDonald? One could do far worse.

  • Tony||

    Dan Rather, the most prominent journalist victim of the authoritarian Bush regime. And you're on their side!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Are you being sarcastic?

  • Tony||

    He got screwed in that deal. He reported the truth. That's why he got screwed.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    +1 kerning.

  • Sevo||

    "He reported the truth"

    We know this, since his "proof" was written in a typeface not even available at the time.
    This is the same jackass who thinks that the hags supporters had their heads turned by some lame gifs.
    IOWs, he's an ignoramus.

  • Tony||

    Given all the absolute horseshit you believe 100 times a day, this is fucking rich. Can you try not sucking Republican dick just once?

  • operagost||

    I've seen better trolls under a bridge.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Paying for stories from guy out of the back of a white panel van parked under a bridge used to be Dan Rather's bread and butter until right-wingers shined a spotlight on the practice.

  • Brandybuck||

    I don't see what the big deal is. We used to have a Big Three news network system where everyone spouted the same propaganda. This is different because now we have hundreds of news choices instead of the government mandated Big Three oligopoly. I guess that scares the shit out of the progressives.

    Sure, the masses don't know it, the masses are still in their bubbles, but this is still just the left angry that someone has a different set of talking points. Those of us with a brain already know they are talking points and we take everything with a few pinches of salt.

  • Just Say'n||

    Q: "I don't see what the big deal is."

    A: "We used to have a Big Three news network system where everyone spouted the same propaganda."

  • Mickey Rat||

    Yes, they are concern trolling because their legacy media outlets don't control all the narratives. They dream of having a common starting point in the national conversation. They do not really if it has a relation to reality.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I think the Oliver hagiography is confusing Superman with the Ventriloquist's dummy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If we're gonna go after anybody, how 'bout the White House Press corp?

    They suck.

    "The result will be that while you may seek to control what comes out of the West Wing, we'll have the upper hand in covering how your policies are carried out.

    . . . .

    The challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible . . . . You're going to face a unified front.

    ----Open Letter to Trump from the White House Press corps, January 17, 2017

    Columbia Journalism Review

    http://www.cjr.org/covering_tr....._corps.php

    I'd say it's amazing that journalists somehow find scapegoats everywhere to explain why hardly anyone trusts them anymore, but it's actually quite predictable. How could it be our fault? We're doing the Lord's work!

    I guess it's worse than that. I'm not sure the press realizes how lowly they're regarded by average people.

    Weeks before Trump was elected, the press may have been the only institution in America with lower approval ratings than either Trump or Hillary Clinton.

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/19.....w-low.aspx

    Maybe the reason people think you suck is because you suck.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I may have forgotten to close an italics tag.

    I'm just sayin'.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I can't tell where the columbia journalism review ends and you begin!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Everything after the first link is all me.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm pretty sure Just Say'n is different.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If the Sinclairford Wives anchors were all parroting the same Parkland kids' gun control message Big Official News has been pushing heavily way past its expiration date I don't think we'd be hearing this whinging.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    There's a lot to digest in this comment.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I know, right? I'm finally getting back to form.

  • The Last American Hero||

    It's like when these idiots complain about Fox News and start bringing up the fairness doctrine, not realizing that to "make things equal" they would have to:

    1) Move NPR to the shitty part of the AM dial or subsidize the Right-Wing nutjob station jump to FM.
    2) Make the WaPo take a Hard Right Turn.
    3) Give CBS News to the Koch Brothers.
    4) Create Sinclair II for local markets to get 1/2 of the local coverage from Team Red fans and 1/2 from Team Blue fans.
    5) Put the gun videos back on Youtube.
    6) Unban and verify blue check thousands of right leaning Twitter accounts
    7) Severely restrict/control Facebook news feeds to feature more right-leaning content.

  • Echospinner||

    Just took a quick look at Sinclair stock. Looks like it could be a bargain at current price. Paying a decent dividend as well.

    I will keep it on the radar list.

  • CE||

    Imagine a media company that doesn't espouse the same views as all the other media companies. It's Orwellian!

  • damikesc||

    So, they read a script where they say fake news is bad, promise to not do fake news, and to call for feedback if they are not doing their jobs.

    Yup, jackboot of fascism shit there.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's almost like "Fake but Accurate" lost its luster.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    People making hash about this don't care that many dem operatives have been taking jobs in the media and promoting a liberal agenda.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    That's been a trend since the 90s. One media person described the new (then) landscape as "literally tripping over former Clinton cabinet officials".

  • Tony||

    If any of you saw a video like that touting a gun control message you'd all shit in your panties with outrage.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Would they call for government regulation of it?

  • Tony||

    I'll leave that to the president of the United States.

  • damikesc||

    We do see CNN occasionally. So, yeah, we see that.

  • Bruce D||

    Really? We constantly see biased videos touting gun control yet defend the biased left wing media's right to present them. Yet, when a news outlet has the self-reflection to accurately call out the bias of news outlets, the Lefty media shits in it's panties in outrage.

  • Praveen R.||

    For me, anything too big that has too much power can clamp down on individuality in society.
    Clear Channel's ownership of the numerous radio stations is a problem. Sinclair is a problem. There is no need for one company to own more than one station in the same market. And yes, what Sinclair is doing propaganda wise is a level beyond the inherent biases many mainstream outlets have. Right wingers keep whining about left wing media. Funny thing. The same left wing media cheered on bush and his iraq war invasion when it happened. The same so called left wing media that bashes cops now were the first to praise cops to the hilt in the wake of 9-11. I dont see a similar equivalence of that with what Sinclair is doing.

    But here is a bigger problem I see right now. COMCAST NBC Universal merger should never have happened. COMCAST pretty much controls the content they distribute. Not many citizens are savvy enough to go with streaming alternatives. Tehy are stuck with the billion COMCAST-NBC channels they choose to put in lower tier packages. in many markets.

    I think the whole libertarian ethos can be varied. I prefer to make it tougher for huge institutions to arise because they can become like quasi governments with their influence on our lives.

  • Sevo||

    You whine too much.

  • gormadoc||

    quasi governments


    I don't think you know what a government is. My friends and family have a large influence on my lives but they don't magically become "quasi governments" that way.

    If you don't like Comcast, switch. They can't do anything about it, nor do they really care to.

  • Ein Vogel-frei||

    what this column and many others should also point out, is the monopolistic behavior of the popular press. Somehow, the NYTimes runs an editorial or slanted news piece, and the same day every single pop newspaper runs the same angle. Same day! they march in lockstep, they coordinate their coverage to speak with one voice, EVERY DAY. And gosh Jingles, they reach about 1000 times the people that Sinclair does!

  • SimonP||

    Are you being sarcastic?

    Because a lot of local papers run the same way as the local broadcast affiliates described in this column does. Columnists featured in the NYTimes are syndicated to local papers, who choose whether or not they run the columns. The same goes for a whole lot of news content in local papers. If anything, the Associated Press and Reuters (who tend to skew conservative in their coverage) are more powerful in the local paper markets than anything the NYTimes or WaPo does.

    Which you would, uh, know, if you read any actual newspapers.

  • Bruce D||

    The AP and Reuters tend to skew conservative? Got an objective reference or example for that?

  • Paper Wasp||

    The same people who are hyperventilating into paper bags on Twitter/FB about Sinclair are the ones who spat "So what?" when Donna Brazile gave debate questions to her friend Cankles in advance. It's all about tribal allegiances. Yawn.

  • Sevo||

    "@MattWelch you have no idea how many people turn on Fox and leave it on all day long!!!!"

    Well, I NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This passes for argument on the left.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Sevo, I don't think you truly understand that all those brain dead hicks in the middle of the country don't even have internet. Any even the ones who do are too in-bred and drunk on Jesus to know how to use it.

    Jeez Sevo, have some sympathy.

  • granite state destroyer||

    I think the issue is that people in fly over country only use the internet for porn. Maybe the left needs to start an all porn news channel.

  • mjerryfuerst||

    From a former news director of a Sinclair owned station: https://tinyurl.com/ya9hz8jz

  • ||

    Operation Mockingbird was Orwellian.

  • James Pollock||

    "Right-libertarians" fear, and push back against, governmental intrusion on their liberty, and largely if not completely ignore threats to their liberty from other sources.

    "Left-libertarians" look for, and push back against, other sources of limitations on liberty as well as governmental, and sometimes (gasp) even use governmental power to attack those other sources.

    The justification for government regulation of broadcasters is simple... they're using the public's electromagnetic spectrum, unlike the power of the press (which, of course, only applies to people who have a press) doesn't directly analogize. The traditional first-amendment remedy for bad speech is more speech. But broadcasters have a monopoly on their spectrum, and I can't just set up a competing broadcaster to counter a bad broadcaster.

  • gormadoc||

    By definition, broadcasters do not have a monopoly on "the spectrum." If you're complaining that they're able to buy a portion of a portion of "the spectrum" to use and that they have sole use of it within the FCC's jurisdiction, too bad. That's how property rights work. The availability of "the spectrum" does not make it "the public's", just as the availability of your house doesn't give me rights to it.

    Right-leaning libertarians distrust large corporations and philosophies, not only government. Left-leaning libertarians are no different in that respect. You've given a shitty, nonsensical, dividing line.

    You aren't a libertarian, even left-leaning. You're an edgy Democrat.

  • James Pollock||

    "You aren't a libertarian, even left-leaning. You're an edgy Democrat."

    Whereas you are an idiot of the first order.

    As to the ownership of the electromagnetic spectrum (specifically, for broadcasting purposes), may I suggest setting aside some time to examine the Communications Act of 1934? I suspect it holds a HUGE surprise for you.

    Once you get your brain around the correct facts of the matter, I will accept your apology for your badly misguided effort to "correct" my "misunderstanding". Until then, STFU.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I don't think you truly understand left libertarianism. It's more distinct from right libertarianism than you think. The FCC is the perfect example actually, and that's because the emag Spectrum is the same thing as land property. It's a shared resource — right libertarians have created this thing called private property to parse the public resource into privately controlled sections and advocate minimal (or no) public oversight of it. Left libertarians (especially mutualists) reject this — see Roderick T Long's long essay on public property. All of his insights can be applied to the emag Spectrum. That is, it should be treated as a public resource.

  • James Pollock||

    "I don't think you truly understand left libertarianism."

    You've made this determination based on two sentences?

    Here's the deal. One characteristic of libertarianism is that no too libertarians agree on anything, including specifically what it means to be a libertarian.

    Spectrum is a scarce resource, and it actually benefits everybody to have it regulated. Yes, it means you can't just set up a transmitter in the barn and put your opinions out over the air, unless you can afford the time, effort, and money to obtain a broadcast license. But it also means that if you DO put in the time, offort, and money to obtain a broadcast license, your broadcasts aren't just swamped by someone else with a bigger transmitter..

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I wasn't replying to you.

  • gormadoc||

    unlike the power of the press (which, of course, only applies to people who have a press)

    I just noticed this. This is complete and utter bullshit. As established by Branzburg v Hayes (1972), the press is interpreted to be cover "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion." If you can publish it or using it, it's covered by freedom of the press.

  • James Pollock||

    If you don't have access to a press (or a mechanism for creating "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion"), your "freedom" to do so has what value exactly?

  • Lester224||

    The worst thing about Sinclair is their liquidated damages clause. The news people can't just quit or they owe as much as 40% of a year's pay and Sinclair can sue them. These clauses may be illegal as they exceed replacement costs. So the argument "if you don't like to read the "must run" news segments the central authorities dictate just quit is not all that convincing. There is an an unusual lack of labor mobility in this field. It can be very hard to quit. They have a quasi-captive labor force with little local editorial control. They also have non-compete clauses with conditions like not joining another broadcast organization for 6 months or so.

    Quote from a Florida reporter who worked for a Sinclair station:

    "Beaton, who was a reporter, also says the company guided its newsrooms' work toward a conservative point of view while he was working with WPEC. He compares the slant to ultra-conservative publications like the Blaze and the Daily Wire.

    "It was more than just the questions," he says. "It was the stories that we were told to do; they had to have a religious tie-in. We couldn't do stories, for the most part, that involved the LGBTQ community. Basically, there were a set of parameters and we had to stick to them."

    Having ideological central control for broadcasting is a bit like having state-run TV. It's not too bad with Sinclair now but eventually monopoly-like conditions for local news could apply.

  • James Pollock||

    "The worst thing about Sinclair is their liquidated damages clause."

    The most common reason for an on-air talent to leave a station's employ is a better deal at a bigger, higher-profile station in a larger media market. Broadcasters do invest considerable resources in promoting their on-air talent, so building them up only to see them leave for greener pastures is an annoyance for the station(s), even though it's been part of the game for approximately as long as there have been broadcast stations with hired on-air talent. That's why on-air talent have complicated employment contracts with draconian non-performance penalties and non-competes.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Let them have their Sinclair broadcasts.

    Poorly educated, economically irrelevant, backward, intolerant people and communities and people should be able to watch something they like, too.

    It would have been better to enable other broadcasters to play by the Sinclair rules, though.

  • aajax||

    The problem is that Sinclair handed down these orders from corporate and had their local news readers deliver them as if they were the editorial opinion of the local station. How many viewers even realize that their station is owned by some highly political corporation named Sinclair?

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    True or false: Sinclair vitally relies on government force to support its enterprise.

    Take away the FCC and all (protectionist) policies that favor them over competitors, and their influence dwindles significantly. So, sure they're not a monopoly in the exact sense, just as your privately owned subway system in your home town is not a monopoly either. But they still share an element of coercive exclusivity, and so an argument can be made that they should have certain responsibilities.

  • BrianB||

    Ever since the ownership rules for radio and TV were relaxed with the deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s, all of radio and TV broadcasting has gone downhill in a number of ways...employment opportunities, creative content, diversity of opinion and presentation, etc. Pretty much the only thing left that serves the public "interest, convenience, and necessity" are the few college radio stations that haven't been sold to NPR or KLOVE. Good broadcasting is over.

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