A news media story with an Arkansas angle hits the front page of today’s New York Times, about Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of 42 Tribune TV stations, which will grow its chain to 173.
Sinclair already owned KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock, long a dominant Arkansas news source. It is acquiring KFSM-5 and KXNW-34 in Fort Smith. It is also acquiring a station in Memphis, WREG, with Arkansas coverage.
KATV viewers have already seen some of the elements of the Sinclair imprint reported in the Times.
They are called “must-runs,” and they arrive every day at television stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group — short video segments that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country are directed to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.
Since November 2015, Sinclair has ordered its stations to run a daily segment from a “Terrorism Alert Desk” with updates on terrorism-related news around the world. During the election campaign last year, it sent out a package that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery. More recently, Sinclair asked stations to run a short segment in which Scott Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, accused the national news media of publishing “fake news stories.”
As Sinclair prepares to expand its stable of local TV stations with a proposed acquisition of Tribune Media — which would add 42 stations to Sinclair’s 173 — advocacy groups have shown concern about the size and reach the combined company would have. Its stations would reach more than 70 percent of the nation’s households, including many of the largest markets.
Critics of the deal also cite Sinclair’s willingness to use its stations to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda. That practice has stirred wariness among some of its journalists concerned about intrusive direction from headquarters.
The article reports some pushback in liberal Seattle, where news staffers have chafed at some of Sinclair directives.
Sinclair defends its news practices and says sharing of content improves quality across the board. That content includes work by Sheryl Attkison, who left CBS complaining of liberal bias. Sinclair provided an important forum for Donald Trump and his family in campaign 2016, particularly in critical Ohio, an important part of Trump’s electoral victory.