Late last week, thanks to in large part to a Deadspin-produced supercut of news anchors across the country reading from the same fake-news-bashing script, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the United States' largest owner of TV stations, went viral.
It wasn't the first time for the company, which frequently sends its local affiliates across the country explicitly political must-run segments for their newscasts. Everyone from John Oliver to The New York Times has reported on the explosive, regulation-defying growth of the conservative media empire. Dallas, to this point, hasn't had a stake in the game, but Austin, San Antonio and El Paso all have Sinclair-owned stations. Dallas could join the pack as early as this summer.
Sinclair is in the midst of acquiring the Tribune Media Company. Tribune Media Company owns KDAF-TV, Dallas' CW affiliate.
"This is a deal that got announced last May, and it's been under review by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission," says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the Free Press Action Fund. "They both have to sign off on it in order for it to go through. The FCC has been doing a bunch of things [like easing regulations on the number of stations one company can own in a single market] to help this deal through. ... It's on hold for now, but it could be done in a matter of weeks, or it could be a couple of months. There are a couple of obstacles, including some lawsuits that we've filed, but the deal appears to be moving forward.
If the deal goes through, CW33 will become Dallas' outlet for Sinclair's national content, which purports to bring balance to the leftism that permeates the news media but plays a lot like a house organ for President Donald Trump. On Monday morning, Trump himself defended Sinclair on Twitter, saying that the corporation was better than CNN or NBC News.
So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
Sinclair frequently requires local stations to run nationally focused, suburban Washington D.C.-produced features like the Terrorism Alert Desk and political commentaries from former Trump campaign operative Boris Epshteyn.
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"Their model is pretty consistent," Aaron says. "Sinclair's secret sauce is a relatively normal newscast. News, weather, sports, crime, sorta what you might expect. I don't know if they'll keep the CW's current format [KDAF airs a nontraditional newscast heavy on B-roll and voice-overs without traditional anchors]. I'm guessing that they won't, that they'll put together some kind of skeleton news crew to do some broadcast. Then, what they'll do is what you saw in the Deadspin video. They insert stuff from headquarters and insert hyper-political content into the normal newscast."
In the midst of traffic and weather updates, a Sinclair station might have former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka show up and talk about the Deep State, Aaron says.
"They force the stations to air all these packages, so what you might see when they come into Dallas is that they might up the number of hours devoted to news in the local market, but a huge chunk of that time is going to be devoted to the centrally created political content," Aaron says.