NEWS ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY / By Awakening Staff
Virtually all mainstream media in the U.S. and Canada are reporting on the Sinclair media affair in a uniform fashion—criticizing Sinclair’s Maryland-based owners for having member stations air a uniform message that, according to Sinclair’s owners, was intended to caution viewers to beware of “fake news” online and on other mainstream national media networks, such as CNN.
Former CBS national anchorman Dan Rather’s view of Sinclair’s on-air bulletin typifies the narrative being reported to the public. He stated: “News anchors [at Sinclair-owned stations] looking into the camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, [reciting] words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.”
Beyond a brief introductory sentence tailored to each TV station [name of the station, news anchors’ names etc.], the rest of the statement that anchors at all Sinclair stations recited to audiences was worded the same. That wording was as follows:
[We are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy . . . We understand truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
Anchors reciting this statement concluded by asking viewers to hold Sinclair stations accountable.
Meanwhile, there are reports, not fully substantiated, claiming that any Sinclair employees who disagreed with this company-wide statement-of-purpose risked losing their jobs. Sinclair also is accused of having reported extra-favorably for Donald Trump during his election campaign—in anticipation of seeking Federal Communications Commission approval for an even larger share of the U.S. media market.
The publicly traded Sinclair company, controlled by the family of late founder Julian Sinclair Smith, is based in Hunt Valley, Maryland and is the largest television station operator in the U.S. by number of stations, and largest by total coverage. It owns or operates a total of 193 stations across the country (233 after all currently proposed sales are approved) in over 100 markets (covering 40% of American households), many of which are located in the South and Midwest.
SINCLAIR RESPONDS TO CRITICISM
On April 2nd, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President of News Scott Livingston responded:
These [on-air] announcements were responding to the public’s distrust in news generally, [as] confirmed just today by this Monmouth University poll https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_040218
[The promotional announcements through all Sinclair TV outlets] spoke to our commitment to avoid . . . inaccurate reporting. The promos served no political agenda and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information. We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences. It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable. Our local stations keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.
SINCLAIR’S ACCUSERS & THE CBC FACTOR
Looking at the big picture, however, shows that the mainstream media in Canada, the U.S. (and the UK and Europe) tend to tell consumers the same narrative about a host of critical issues. These media outlets all support the NAFTA treaty and peddle the same view of unfettered free trade over fair trade, while criticising any and all “protectionist” measures (such as the tariffs that U.S. President Trump has called for).
Furthermore, the mainstream media all tend to support unconditional military interventionist policies; they all rail against “America First” policies regardless of circumstances; and they all support open borders without meaningful qualifications. Fox News is the only partial exception—and that exception wavers.
Focusing on the CBC, the $1.1 billion government-media network of Canada turned out to be just as critical of Sinclair as most other competing U.S. media have been. An April 7th CBC online story, topped with a headline saying that Sinclair employees are being “held hostage,” noted the following:
“Many people working in American cable news pondered the same question this week: Why did hundreds of anchors for Sinclair Broadcast Group all recently agree to read the same editorial on air? And more specifically, if they were opposed to it — as many were reported to have privately conceded — why didn’t they just refuse or quit?”
The CBC article added: “The answer seems to demonstrate how the politicised nature of news in the U.S. has filtered down to local markets . . . ”
But Canada has its own brand of politicized news that filters down to local markets. As the Awakening News has found combing through hundreds of Canadian media reports (online and in print), Canada’s widespread “culture of silence” constitutes the lion’s share of the nation’s unique way of politicizing news. Media silence about lesser-known but important issues tends to protect Canada’s politicians and their entrenched Civil Service allies, who collude to enable corruption to fester for decades without correction—for so long that the responsible parties retire into oblivion and politicians come and go.
Put another way, that describes the “status quo” (a.k.a., “the way it is”) where lingering problems can be hidden in plain sight through media and government silence and coverups.
To give just some examples of enduring media silence (further explained in other Awakening articles), we’re talking about:
- Silence about the dramatic expansion of casino gambling and its negative economic and social effects across Canada but especially in Ontario;
- Silence about Nestle bottlers for years mining the Guelph aquifer for less than 4 dollars per million liters, representing a stark example of irresponsible neglect of groundwater stewardship, even while water shortages arise in Cape Town, South Africa and in China;
- Silence about the hypocrisy of several Conservative Party members wanting fellow Conservative MPP Patrick Brown’s political scalp while leaving “opposition” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne untouched, even though Awakening News for over three years has been contacting Wynne and various Canadian media, pointing to a letter that Conservative MPP James Wilson wrote to Wynne about the violation of labour regulations and intellectual-property rights at Casino Rama. This has resulted in unresolved workplace hazards in violation of labour law under Penn National, the casino’s outgoing U.S.-based management company. Indigenous and non-indigenous workers (and customers) have been adversely affected.
Much more could be said about this culture of silence. But the big picture that emerges from the Sinclair affair, for those who care to look, is that the corporate media culture in Canada and the U.S., with only minor exceptions, gives news consumers the same uniform narrative, yet partisans for this media culture are worried that Sinclair is seeking to instill a uniform message among its stations.
That being said, too much central control—with media marketshare falling into fewer and fewer hands—marks a trend that most people will see as undesirable. The flap surrounding the Sinclair affair, while it’s Sinclair’s right to do as it sees fit, nevertheless testifies to the fact that consumers have every reason to look beyond all heavily corporate news sources and seek out truly independent media, such as the Awakening News.
Otherwise, everyone will remain stuck in the stale left-versus-right mindset and most problems will remain unsolved.