KATV in Little Rock is deferring to its corporate owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group over criticism that the station is participating in a concerted nationwide effort to integrate conservative talking points into news coverage. While nearly every Sinclair owned station has opted-out of responding directly, this morning the station in Madison, Wisconsin announced it did not air a recent Sinclair must-read script, saying it “stayed true to our commitment” to viewers.
In response to the Sinclair message aired: "WMSN/FOX47 Madison did not air the Sinclair promotional announcement during our 9pm news this weekend. Rather, we stayed true to our commitment to provide our Madison area viewers local news, weather and sports of interest to them." pic.twitter.com/MdQ568cWrH
— FOX 47 Madison (@fox47madison) April 2, 2018
KATV has already aired a conservative opinion segment by a former Russian-born staffer of President Trump, Boris Epshteyn, during news broadcasts and its local anchors recently joined hundreds of others across the country in reading Sinclair-produced scripts echoing President Trump’s rhetoric about biased media.
The website Deadspin collected a montage of local anchors throughout the nation conveying the same message.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 31, 2018
KATV responded to a request for comment about how the station made the decision to participate by forwarding Sinclair Broadcasting Group's thoughts on the matter.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI) (“Sinclair”) today responded to a series of media reports attacking the Company’s recent promotional announcement for its local news. These announcements were responding to the public’s distrust in news generally, confirmed just today by this Monmouth University poll https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_040218, and spoke to our commitment to avoid such inaccurate reporting. The promos served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information.
“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,” commented Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President of News. “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.”
President Donald Trump responded to media critics by praising Sinclair in a Tweet as “far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik anticipated Sinclair stations moving in a more conservative direction last Spring, "If history is any guide ... Sinclair Broadcast will also pull news coverage on those stations in a more conservative direction and explore giving full rein to those beliefs on a national platform."
The Columbia Journalism Review characterized Sinclair's policies of influencing local stations as an “Orwellian attack on the press.”
Locally, Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Mortitz pulled out the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
By turning them into corporate mouthpieces, Sinclair asked its local anchors to violate two of the four principles of the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics. And far too many were willing. @spj_tweets pic.twitter.com/kwKlO0Y0Tp
— Gwen Moritz (@gwenmoritz) April 2, 2018
Sinclair owns KATV and has been in the process of acquiring KFSM-Fort Smith, KXNW-Eureka Springs and WREG-Memphis in a deal to purchase Tribune Media holdings. KATV is a news and content sharing partner of KUAR Public Radio.