Boycott of Sinclair Broadcasting Group
The boycott of Sinclair Broadcast Group is an effort to discourage marketers from advertising on the nationwide chain of local television news stations. In addition, the boycott is part of an effort to block a proposed merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media which would significantly expand the firm's control of local media markets. Supporters of the boycott would like to remove Sinclair from its 193 television stations or to weaken its authority to promulgate what they view as right-wing propaganda to 40% of American households. Critics of Sinclair have suggested that the news media conglomerate's actions amount to a "very real threat to democracy". A Sinclair spokesperson said that the company believed it was doing the right thing, that the controversy was "dying down", and that when the company plans to do it the next time, they'll "give local stations more freedom to come up with the messaging." The management of Sinclair generally declines to give interviews to the media, and it continues to insist that its position is fair. A report in Advertising Age magazine suggested that a boycott would not be easy, since it involves users first identifying the station as a Sinclair station, and then figuring out which advertisers are putting commercials on that station, and then discouraging those advertisers.
Executive chairman David Smith said that he dislikes and distrusts the print media which he views as a "reality-distorting tool of leftists". Sinclair owns 193 television stations which are "peppered throughout 39 states", with concentrations in the south and midwest. The boycott began in March 2018 when it was discovered that the right-leaning firm was requiring its local news anchors to read a canned script bashing the news media in general. The sports website Deadspin posted a video which showed a multitude of Sinclair news anchors repeating, word-for-word, an identical script which was purportedly a "journalistic responsibility" promotion but which most critics saw as an attack on the mainstream news media. The Deadspin video attracted millions of views in a short period of time. The company insists that the promotion "served no political agenda" and was simply a way to promote their news programming against the competition.
In a related development, some advertisers are boycotting a Sinclair-hosted program because of a comment made by one of its hosts Jamie Allman from station KDNL in St. Louis, in which Allman in a tweet threatened to sexually assault Parkland student-turned-activist David Hogg with a fireplace implement; Allman resigned and his show was canceled by Sinclair.
Boycott supporters include elected officials and candidates for office, typically from the Democratic Party, as well as celebrities and media people. For example, Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky, withdrew her campaign's advertising from Sinclair station WDKY-TV. Another supporter is Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfield. Gareth Rhodes, running for Congress, refused to be "complicit" in Sinclair's attacks on the media, and pulled his campaign's advertising. Candidate Krish Vignarajah in her race for a congressional seat in Maryland called on her rivals to similarly boycott Sinclair. Comedian Amy Schumer canceled an interview with Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate WJLA in April 2018. Democratic Congressional Candidate Gareth Rhodes, running against incumbent John Faso for New York's 19th Congressional District, vowed to not broadcast his campaign advertisements on Sinclair-owned stations, specifically local news network WRGB. Democratic congressional candidate Ken Romley, running for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, said that he will not advertise on Sinclair.
There are reports of resistance from Sinclair employees themselves, who do not like being required to read scripts sent down from the corporate headquarters. Some employees complained that while they found the required script "awful", that they were forced to read the scripts if they wanted to hold on to their jobs. For example, WOAI anchor Delaine Mathieu said they had "no choice" but to read the required script. One Sinclair producer resigned on the grounds that the forced scripts were "forcing local news anchors to lie to their viewers". Sinclair station WMSN/FOX47 in Madison, Wisconsin refused to run the promo. Sinclair news anchors complained privately that they were treated like "corporate mouthpieces". Sinclair employees have been reluctant to speak out against the must-run scripts because the firm has "draconian noncompete contracts" which prevent them from switching to competitive stations for six months after they leave Sinclair, as well as financial penalties if they leave. If a Sinclair journalist wants to quit, the costs are steep.
Backing from independent local media
- Glaser, April (April 2, 2018). "Public Shaming Isn't Enough to Stop Sinclair's Conservative Local News Empire". Slate Magazine. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Gstalter, Morgan (2018-04-02). "Cincinnati councilman boycotting local station owned by Sinclair". TheHill. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- Scott D. Pierce (April 4, 2018). "Sinclair is actively undermining journalists — including those at KUTV: Station group's efforts have backfired and burned those ordered to read controversial statement". St. Louis Tribune. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s campaign against so-called fake news has gotten away from it, embarrassing its ownership, management and employees, including those at KUTV-Channel 2....
- Harry A. Jessell (April 7, 2018). "KSNV's ND Defends Sinclair's Promo: Mark Neerman: "If you look at the words, there is nothing wrong with it…. It was only a promo." However, he added: "When we do it again next time, we will probably give local stations more freedom to come up with the messaging."". TV News Check. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
... much of it was apparently orchestrated by opponents of Sinclair’s pending merger with Tribune and the controversy was “already dying down.” ...
- Herzog, Katie (April 2, 2018). "It's Time to Boycott Sinclair's Propaganda Machine. But We're Going to Need Your Help". The Stranger. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- Sara Jerde (April 6, 2018). "The Fallout Continues Over Those 'Egregious' Sinclair Promos: They're a 'threat to democracy,' one candidate said". Adweek. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...The promos went viral after Deadspin created a mashup of anchors reading the word-for-word scripts in markets throughout the country.... “The blatant use of local affiliates to propagate these blatant propaganda pieces was egregious and eye-opening and it reflects them as a very real threat to democracy,” Vignarajah said. “No political candidate should sit silent.” ...
- Brian Nearing (April 5, 2018). "Candidate vows CBS 6 ad boycott over Sinclair 'fake news' statement". Times Union. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
... "Sinclair's attacks on our press are dangerous, and I refuse to be complicit in allowing them to continue," said Gareth Rhodes...
- Poggi, Jeanine (April 2, 2018). "A Sinclair Broadcast ad boycott wouldn't be easy". AdAge. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
- Olivia Nuzzi (April 3, 2018). "Sinclair Chairman Claims Entire Print Media Has 'No Credibility'". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...David Smith, the executive chairman ... dislikes and fundamentally distrusts the print media... reality-distorting tool of leftists. ... 193 television stations he owns or controls, peppered throughout 39 states, ... dozens of well-coiffed men and women robotically read the same words and phrases into the camera ... went viral, attracting tens of thousands of retweets and millions of views. ...
- Anonymous (April 5, 2018). "We're journalists at a Sinclair news station. We're pissed.: Some of us wish we could quit — but our hands are tied". VOX News. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
... anchors privately said they felt like corporate mouthpieces ... bosses made it clear that reading the message wasn’t a suggestion but an order from above ...
- "Sinclair Tells Stations to Air Media-Bashing Promos — and Criticism Goes Viral". KTLA. 2018-04-02. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- Christi Carras (April 4, 2018). "Sinclair Producer Resigns in Protest Amid Backlash Over 'Fake News' Script". Variety. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
... almost forcing local news anchors to lie to their viewers ... Sinclair defended the promos, claiming they “served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming...
- CNN, Elliott C. McLaughlin, April 10, 2018, Sinclair TV host resigns after making vulgar comment about Parkland student David Hogg, Retrieved April 11, 2018, "...getting ready to ram a hot poker up David Hogg's ass tomorrow...."
- NATASHA BACH (April 6, 2018). "Amy Schumer Jumps On the Sinclair Boycott Bandwagon". Fortune magazine. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...The comedian and actor has canceled an upcoming interview with ABC affiliate WJLA, ...
- Watkins, Eli (April 2, 2018). "Kentucky Democrat says she's pulling ads from Sinclair station". CNN. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- Flint, Joe (2018-04-03). "Sinclair Broadcast Faces Backlash For Requiring Anchors to Recite Segments". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
- Ben Kamisar, April 2, 2018, The Hill, Dem candidate pulls ad from Sinclair station, Retrieved April 3, 2018
- Watkins, Eli (April 2, 2018). "Kentucky Democrat says she's pulling ads from Sinclair station". CNN. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
- Associated Press (April 3, 2018). "Maryland gubernatorial candidate announces Sinclair boycott". WTOP. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...The Baltimore Sun reports that Krish Vignarajah on Tuesday called on her rivals in the crowded Democratic field and other parties to join her boycott of Sinclair affiliates. ... The Maryland-based Sinclair owns four television stations that broadcast in the state: the D.C.-area WJLA ABC 7 and Baltimore’s WBFF FOX 45, WNUV the CW and WUTB MyTV....
- "Candidate vows CBS 6 ad boycott over Sinclair 'fake news' statement". Times Union. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- "Democratic candidate for Congress won't run ads on Sinclair networks". newsobserver. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- Deadspin, April 5, 2018, Laura Wagner, How Local News Stations Are Rebelling Against Their Sinclair Overlords, Retrieved April 9, 2018
- Jeanne Jakle (April 4, 2018). "WOAI anchor Delaine Mathieu on Sinclair promos: 'This was awful'". My San Antonio. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...WOAI anchorwoman Delaine Mathieu wrote on Facebook Tuesday that it was “awful” having to deliver promos mandated by parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group that seemed to echo the views of President Trump. However, she and chief anchorman Randy Beamer had no choice, she added, if they wanted to keep their jobs....
- Maxwell Tani (April 3, 2018). "'VERY UNUSUAL': Sinclair Making Employees Sign 'Highly Problematic' Contracts, Legal Experts Say -- Sinclair Broadcasting Group requires employees to sign contracts forcing them to pay large penalties for quitting. Legal experts say those contracts may not be enforceable". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s attempt to shame other media organizations continues to backfire in spectacular fashion ... the anchors at their station who were required to read the scripts pushed back ... Sinclair-owned station, WMSN/FOX47 in Madison, Wisconsin, refused to run the promo ...
- Jordyn Holman and Rebecca Greenfield Bloomberg (April 3, 2018). "Sinclair employees say contracts make it too expensive to quit". The Daily Herald. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
...company's journalists didn't just quit ... the cost may be too steep ... three current and former Sinclair employees said it was the potential financial penalty that had the greatest impact....
- "Boycott advertisers on Sinclair stations". Times Union. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- Griffing, Dan. "Boycott of Sinclair stations would send message". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
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