Sinclair Broadcasting Corp. is going meta, requiring its anchors to call out so-called "fake news" in a promotional campaign that could affect its local affiliate stations this month.
According to a report by Brian Stelter, a media correspondent for CNN, Sinclair is mandating what it calls an "anchor-delivered journalistic responsibility message."
The 60- to 75-second promos, read by local anchors and aired during local news programs, would praise "quality, balanced journalism" done by its stations, while bemoaning the "troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country."
The staff at some affiliates saw the promos as an infringement on local journalism and shared internal documents with CNN, including a completed script and specific instructions on when and how the promotional spots should be used.
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The spots, which could start airing on local stations this month, will run "frequently 'to create maximum reach,' " and include language that is similar in tone to President Donald Trump's "inflammatory rhetoric about 'fake news,' " CNN said.
Fresno's KMPH FOX 26, which is owned by Sinclair, declined to comment about the mandate and referred to a statement from Scott Livingston, the parent company's senior vice president of news.
"The article written by Brian Stelter from CNN is an attempt to create a story where none exists," it reads.
"Promotional messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in local broadcasting and numerous station groups air similar messages across all of their stations, all using an identical script, but read by the local anchor. The promos address the well documented existence of false stories on social media, not network or cable news. Ironically, Mr. Stelter’s apparent attempt to portray these announcements as something that they are not, despite having access to the facts, might very well be viewed as fake news."
The company is not without its detractors. John Oliver spent 18 minutes talking about Sinclair on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight.". In the segment, he referred to Sinclair as “maybe the most influential media company you never heard of."
The Maryland-based company bought KMPH (and KFRE) in 2013 in a $115.35 million deal that included four TV stations.