Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sinclair TV Deal Is Another Step Toward "Managed Media"

Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, I warned that the country needed to be prepared for the inevitable movement toward a "managed media", similar to the situation that Putin has created in Russia. Obviously, Trump was not going to convert America into Russia overnight, especially where the media was concerned. But there would be a concerted effort to intimidate effective media oversight and promote Republican propaganda outfits.

With his continual attacks on the media, Trump has certainly gone after the independent press. But it has been far less effective than one might have thought, primarily because Trump is so transparent in his motives for specific attacks and is so constant in his criticism so that people have become immune to their impact. Sadly, this is at least part of the normalization of Trump's outrageous and illegal behaviors.

We have all known for years that Fox News is merely a propaganda outfit for the Republican party. When Roger Ailes was in charge, he clearly set the tone and the message for the channel. Whether that was based on his own insights into conservative ideology, personal preferences, or direct coordination with Republican political leaders was always hard to know.

Now, however, it appears that whatever level of deniability the network had before is slowly falling away. The indications that the Fox News "story" that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich sent the DNC emails to WikiLeaks rather than the Russians was actually coordinated with the White House is another step down the road to government managed media. Fox was eventually forced to retract the story, as it had to when it reported that Hillary Clinton was going to be imminently indicted immediately before the November election, yet another story clearly based on "information" from officials associated with the Trump campaign.

With the announcement that the FCC is allowing Sinclair Broadcast Group to purchase another 42 TV stations from Tribune Media, we have taken yet another step. This would allow Sinclair to reach 72% of the American TV audience, nearly double the cap of 39% imposed by Congress. In order to do this, the FCC restored an decades-old rule that did not include former UHF channels above channel 13 in determining the viewership reached, thereby getting Sinclair down the legally acceptable level of 38%. This rollback was led by the horrid FCC chair, Ajit Pai, in a 2-1 party line vote by the Commission.

Sinclair is well known for its already conservative bias and it was reported that Jared Kushner actually boasted that the Trump campaign had struck a deal with the company in order to receive positive coverage. But its most insidious policy is to force local TV stations that it owns to essentially run conservative propaganda pieces under the guise that it is actually local programming. At present, it forces local stations to run a commentary segment from short-lived Trump White House staffer Boris Epshteyn nine times a week. As John Oliver describes it, "[W]ith Sinclair, they're injecting Fox-worthy content into the mouths of your local news anchors."

In addition, the horrid Pai has also proposed repealing a rule that a station owner must have a main studio in the local area it serves. If that passes, it would allow Sinclair to impose even more control over its local broadcasts, with a reach that includes nearly three-quarters of the country. And isn't that what every would-be autocrat exactly wants.


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