The Sinclair Broadcast Group has come under fire following the spread of a video showing anchors at its stations across the United States reading a script criticising "fake" news stories.

Typically, the Sinclair editorials do not make much of an impact. But when Timothy Burke, a video editor in Tampa, Florida, collected 44 versions of that editorial - from 44 local news markets, and lay them side by side, allowing Americans to play them back, word for word, the effect was chilling.

The reaction was: just what is Sinclair?

Unlike Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, Sinclair does not own a national news network so its brand is not that well known. But it does own 173 local TV stations, covering 40 percent of American households. Since those channels are affiliated with national broadcasting brands, ABC, NBC and CBS - they display those logos rather than their parent company's.

What's happened with Sinclair is actually really good. It's great that we have seen this thing happen with all the anchors reading the same lines across the country. Because we've had a real-life example of what we should be afraid of.

John Nichols, national correspondent, The Nation

Up until now, Sinclair sent editorials from the company's headquarters in Maryland that their channels were required to broadcast. Typically, the so-called "must runs" are fronted by a Sinclair executive, Boris Epshteyn, who worked on Donald Trump's election team.

According to Dana Floberg, a policy analyst at Free Press, "There's something particularly treacherous about taking these words from Sinclair's corporate headquarters and putting them in the mouths of journalists who are trusted to the point that now audiences can't tell whether or not the information they're consuming actually comes from these local journalists that they trust, or if there's a giant conservative corporate Goliath pulling the strings."

And the Goliath wants to grow.

Sinclair has a $3.9bn merger deal in place with Tribune Media which would land Sinclair another 42 local TV stations - including in major markets like New York, Chicago and Washington - boosting its reach from 40 percent of American homes to more than 70 percent.

According to John Nichols, national correspondent for The Nation, "What's happened with Sinclair is actually really good. It's great that we have seen this thing happen with all the anchors reading the same lines across the country. Because we've had a real-life example of what we should be afraid of."

Contributors:
Timothy Burke, video director, Deadspin
Dana Floberg, policy analyst, Free Press
John Nichols, national correspondent, The Nation
Helaine Olen, journalist

Source: Al Jazeera News