Several local Pennsylvania newscasts sounded similar this week, as anchors at Sinclair Broadcast Group stations were forced to read from the same script decrying “fake stories” and “biased reporting.”
The script, which anchors at stations across the country were required to read, echoes announcements that aired last year by Scott Livingston, the vice president of news at Sinclair, which accused the national news media of publishing “fake news stories.”
“This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media, and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting,” Livingston said in a statement to CNN, which had obtained a draft of the script from a memo Sinclair management sent to local stations. “This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”
Jane Hall, a professor at American University and a former Fox News media critic, didn’t share Livingston’s opinion about the scripts.
“It’s naked in the sense that it’s forcing people in the news to read something that is a corporate piece of propaganda, in my opinion,” Hall said this month on NPR’s Morning Edition, noting that it highlights the idea of “fake news” pushed by President Trump. “[It’s] something that just can’t be seen as anything other than promoting Donald Trump’s view of the rest of the news media.”
Sinclair doesn’t own any news stations in Philadelphia, but has four news stations across Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, Altoona, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
The company has angered many of its local journalists by forcing stations to run content that has a pro-Trump bend, including ”must-run” political segments by former Trump campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn and Terrorism Alert Desk segments that almost exclusively focus on stories involving Islam.
Here are four almost identical clips from Pennsylvania stations that were forced to read the corporate-sponsored script. The first, read by WHP anchors Robb Hanrahan and Jasmine Brooks, aired on CBS21 in Harrisburg during the 10 p.m. news on March 23: