Local TV becomes a coordinated propaganda campaign

There was a time when broadcasters were limited in the number and location of broadcast properties they could own.

The government capped the number of local TV stations an entity could own because it feared what might happen if only a few entities controlled the media and, hence, the local news. It also prevented a single local broadcaster from operating properties that reached more than 39 percent of the national audience.

That ended last November when the FCC rescinded its local ownership rules at the urging of the National Association of Broadcasters, including one that had required local TV stations to have studios in their community of license.

A court challenge fizzled in February and Sinclair Broadcasting, a supporter of President Trump, was allowed to keep the local TV stations it purchased from Tribune Broadcasting.

How has that turned out?

TV anchors, who proudly call themselves “journalists,” have become mere puppets.

Deadspin says the news anchors have been instructed to read a Sinclair-written attack on the media:

The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.

The net result of the company’s current mandate is dozens upon dozens of local news anchors looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation.

It’s not like smart people didn’t see this coming.

“When the FCC eliminates the local studio rule, Sinclair – long known for requiring their stations to carry right-wing programs produced by headquarters – will have an open field to replace local voices with national control,” former FCC chair Tom Wheeler predicted last July.

And 14 years ago, Jay Rosen, the media critic and New York University professor, saw the strategy.

Sinclair, I came to see, wasn’t a normal media conglomerate in the making, not even in the Rupert Murdoch mold with forays into right-wing politics.

It was a kind of political force accumulating broadcast assets, intending to use them at strategic moments in order to keep growing, yes, but also to swell in influence, reputation, “voice.”

Between the last election and this one, Sinclair had developed the capacity to intervene in politics using its 62 local stations as loudspeakers for a message synthesized at the center.

“Some might say the system worked: Sinclair got the message, and retreated. I say the system jerked, and Sinclair realized how little there is to stop it,” Rosen said.