Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of television stations in the United States, is being criticized for messages the company has instructed many of its local TV stations to read on air. The messages, read by local anchors, criticized other media outlets for publishing “fake stories without checking facts first.”
In North Carolina, Sinclair stations include WLFL in the Triangle, better known as the area's CW Network affiliate.
WLFL does not have its own news team, but it airs a WTVD newscast at 10 each weeknight.
WTVD president and general manager Caroline Welch confirms that the station has not run the Sinclair message.
"The 10 p.m. newscast is produced entirely by ABC11 and is editorially independent,” Welch said in an emailed statement.
Also in the Triangle is Sinclair-owned WRDC, a MyNetworkTV-syndicated station that also has no newscast.
A Deadspin video posted this weekend featured a compilation of dozens of anchors at Sinclair-owned stations across the U.S. reading the same scripted message about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”
The New York Times reported that Sinclair regularly sends video segments to the stations it owns — “must-runs” that can include content like terrorism news updates and commentators speaking in support of President Trump.
On Monday, David E. Price, a Democratic congressman representing North Carolina's 4th congressional district, called the latest videos “pro-Trump propaganda.” Price has introduced a bill that would block Sinclair from merging with media giant Tribune Media, a $3.9 billion deal that has regulators concerned over antitrust issues. Sinclair already owns 193 TV stations across the U.S.
Ken Romley, a Democratic candidate for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd district seeking Rep. George Holding's seat, has announced he will not air campaign ads on Sinclair affiliates.
OnMonday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that “Sinclair Broadcasting is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
Sinclair responded to the criticism of the messages Monday with a statement that maintains the segments “served no political agenda.”
“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.”
Other Sinclair stations in North Carolina
- WLOS-13, an ABC affiliate in Asheville, is one of the North Carolina stations confirmed to have aired the promo, read on-air by Darcel Grimes and Frank Fraboni. A portion of the promo was posted on YouTube by a private citizen.
- In the New Bern-Greenville area, WCTI news director Eric Olsen would not comment on the Sinclair promos to confirm or deny that the station has read the message on air. Olsen said he had been instructed to refer inquiries to Sinclair’s statement released on Monday. Viewers have reported seeing the promo on WCTI, read by anchors Valentina Wilson and Wes Goforth.
- WXLV, the Sinclair-owned station serving the Winston-Salem and Greensboro area, airs a Spectrum News newscast.
None of the North Carolina stations appear to be included in the Deadspin video compilation.