Sinclair Broadcasting is at the center of a controversy, created by our opponents. The response to a video about our news division providing a “must-run” message to our 75 newsrooms around the country is simply misguided. The creation and distribution of must-run news is standard operating procedure at every single station group with extensive networks of local outlets. It is no different than an anchor on a broadcast or cable news program being given promotional copy to read during a telecast that reaches millions of viewers nationwide.
Much of the controversy has been centered on the content of our message, while in fact there is nothing political about it. The message is not a political statement; rather, it refers to our history of fair and objective reporting that is not driven by a political agenda.
Put another way, it is simply a message to viewers around the country from local anchors and reporters they have come to trust in their own communities assuring them that Sinclair takes great pride in our news coverage and that we strive to be fair and accurate in everything we do. The message was designed for our anchors to connect with their viewers by thanking them for their trust and promising to always work diligently to bring them the facts of a story without regard for whether it’s a “right” or “left” story. It was not read on Sinclair stations that do not run news or those that air a news share from another station in the market.
Further, in the message we call upon our viewers to hold us to our word and let us know if they have any concerns about what we are doing.
The message is printed in its entirety below. It fits perfectly with our local news brand and our daily editorial mission. We are immensely proud of the hard-working journalists in this company who are committed to their local communities. We would ask that people read the actual message and then decide for themselves -- and then review the attacks, the bias and the uninformed reporting. In our opinion the nature of the attacks reinforces the point of the message.
There has been much confusion about the term “must-run.” In truth, we have been on the receiving end of an attack by competitors attempting to use that term in a derogatory way. But it is common industry practice to provide local and national anchors with “must-run” copy. Major broadcast and national cable networks do so, as well.
At Sinclair, “must-runs” fall into at least two separate categories -- national news provided by our Washington, D.C., news bureau and national commentary which is clearly identified as commentary. It is probably fair to say that having national resources is seen as a strong positive by our stations and our viewers and, in general, that viewers find our commentaries interesting even when they disagree. That is strictly an anecdotal observation, but the point is local news is enhanced by the “must-run” content. Unfortunately, the term does not express the positive value that our stations are enjoying.
Local news is at the heart of Sinclair. As broadcasters, we know that our greatest responsibility is serving our local communities. The “must-run” story content produced by our 10-person Capitol Hill bureau focuses on daily reporting on national issues of importance. But at the end of the day, 95% of the content and editorial decisions are made at the local station level. This also allows the local stations to use their resources for hyper-local coverage.
It's important to point out that all major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) through their network agreements require companies like Sinclair to carry hours of network programming each day. This “must carry” programming includes analysis and perspectives from people like George Stephanopoulos, a co-host of Good Morning America and the host of This Week; Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show and many other hosts and contributors with clear political ideologies. All Sinclair stations carry this “must-run” content each day, without rebuttal.
Consider the timing: We are in the process of closing one of the largest mergers in broadcasting history that will likely establish a greater amount of much-needed consolidation within the television broadcast industry. That means a stronger competitor in the eyes of others in the media.
Meantime, we have had much feedback from viewers and advertisers thanking us for being proactive in our messages. We will continue on.
Here is the "must-run" message at the center of the controversy, printed in its entirety. By way of example it has been customized for use at KOMO in Seattle.
Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.
But we’re concerned about 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.
More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories … stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.
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.
At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically "left" nor "right." Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.
But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to (feedback reference).
We value your comments. We will respond back to you.
We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.
Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.
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