Straightening up my living room one evening, I stopped to listen to the local news station broadcast. Suddenly, the announcer changed mid-broadcast, and a woman I had not seen on the channel before appeared and started talking about the FBI and Clinton conspiracy to illegally violate the Constitution. I stopped what I was doing and paid careful attention. Then, the segment cut back to the local newscaster who proceeded to describe a fire in Syracuse. Something was off—way off.
I immediately checked all reliable news outlets to see if there was some bizarre story I had missed, but I had not. The “newscast” about the FBI and Clinton came from a far-right wing group that is pushing propaganda and taking over local news stations. Unsure how this could be happening, I called the local news station and talked with a spokesperson for the channel. She told me that she understood my concern that the propaganda ran into the news segment as if it was part of the local news. Then she said, “We know it, but we can’t do anything about it. We have to run it.” In investigating further, all of the “news” promotions the inserted “newscaster” was discussing were previously debunked propaganda, or to put it bluntly: outright lies.
It turns out Sinclair Broadcast Group is owned by a right-wing propagandist, and he is buying up local channels all over the country. Sinclair breaks in on the Syracuse stations and begin its propaganda speak. Several of the “newscasters” are actually employed by Fox “News” and are regular contributors on Hannity’s show. Sara Carter would appear to be a right-wing propagandist, not a journalist.
According to news outlets, first reported by Politico, “In 2016, Sinclair became enveloped in controversy over reports it had ‘struck a deal’ with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign. The deal it reportedly offered included favorable coverage in exchange for access to the Trump campaign.”
John Oliver, on his weekly show “Last Week Tonight,” recently aired the fuller extent of this propaganda buy-out: “the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is in the process of buying Tribune Media, a move that would give it more than 200 stations,” according to Huffpost reporter Ed Mazza in the report, “John Oliver Exposes The Right-Wing Media Empire Taking Over Your Local News.” Mazza further reports, “Sinclair demands stations ‘must run’ specific content fed to them, including prepared material from a former Trump advisor.”
We know that a free media is our last best hope for preserving any semblance of our democracy. Before we really are helpless, get on the phones. Call your Congresswoman and Senators and demand this practice be ended. Better yet, call your local news stations and demand this old Soviet-style practice be ended. Remember, viewers are money to local stations. Money drives every decision these people make. Make your voice heard before it is too late.
Nancy Avery Dafoe