Local newscasts nationwide last week decried “fake” and “one-sided” reporting by reading from a shared script written by one of the most powerful broadcasters in America.
The so-called “must run” script, which local stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group were required to read, according to several reports, blasts “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the script continues, according to a copy published Friday by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first,” an anchor adds, according to the script. Another anchor continues: “Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns more television stations than any other broadcaster in the country, and stands to spread its influence even more if the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission approve a massive merger with Tribune Media.
“At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” one unnamed television anchor at a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned station told CNN earlier this month, referring to the “one-sided news” script.
“They’re certainly not happy about it,” an unnamed KOMO employee told the Post-Intelligencer Friday, referring to their colleagues.
Which leads us back to this...
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
[This is another one of those too-topical-to-ignore topics that I don't have nearly enough time to do justice to, but I suppose that's why God invented blogging.]
There's a huge problem that people aren't talking about nearly enough. More troublingly, when it does get discussed, it is usually treated as a series of unrelated problems, much like a cocaine addict who complains about his drug problem, bankruptcy, divorce, and encounters with loan sharks, but who never makes a causal connection between the items on the list.
Think about all of the recent news stories that are about or are a result of concentration/deregulation of media power and the inevitable consequences. Obviously, net neutrality falls under this category. So does the role that Facebook, and, to a lesser extent, Twitter played in the misinformation that influenced the 2016 election. The role of the platform monopolies in the ongoing implosion of digital journalism has been widely discussed by commentators like Josh Marshall. The Time Warner/AT&T merger has gotten coverage primarily due to the ethically questionable involvement of Donald Trump, with very little being said about the numerous other concerns. Outside of a few fan boys excited over the possibility of seeing the X-Men fight the Avengers, almost no one's talking about Disney's Fox acquisition.
It didn't used to be like this. For most of the 20th century, the government kept a vigilant watch for even potential accumulation of media power. Ownership was restricted. Movie studios were forced to sell their theaters (see United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc). The largest radio network was effectively forced to split in two (that's why we have ABC broadcasting today). Media companies were tightly regulated, their workforce was heavily unionized, and they were forced to jump through all manner of hoops before expanding into new markets to insure that the public good was being served.
In short, the companies were subjected to conditions which we have been told prevent growth, stifle innovation, and kill jobs. We can never know what would've happened had the government given these companies a freer hand but we can say with certainty that for media, the Post-war era was a period of explosive growth, fantastic advances, and incredible successes both economically and culturally. It's worth noting that the biggest entertainment franchises of the market-worshiping, anything-goes 21st century were mostly created under the yoke of 20th century regulation.