Last month, Sinclair Broadcast Group sent a uniform script to anchors at 193 local channels to read on air. The speech, which warned viewers of “fake news,” had the newscasters promising to serve fair and accurate reporting, and ask their audiences to provide feedback on “unfair” coverage. Now anchors are speaking out anonymously about their obligation to air the statement, along with other right-leaning “must run” packages, while various national outlets have received documentation of Sinclair’s explicit instructions to outlets detailing how stations should operate and even how on-air employees should dress.
Attention was first brought to the media company, which is being called a “propaganda machine” by some pundits, when John Oliver did a segment on the politically slanted local news that Sinclair stations have been known to run. But as the conglomerate awaits approval from the Federal Communications Commission on a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media — which would provide the growing telecommunications group with dozens more of the country’s local television stations — outlets, anchors, and audiences have concerns about affiliates across the country having the same voice and look as one another.
Instructions provided by Sinclair Broadcast Group to the nearly 200 local news stations were obtained by CNN. From the script of their promo message, to the way it should be produced, and how often it should air, the business side of the company is apparently coaching its editorial producers on what to include in shows.
Beyond messaging, anchors, some of whom have already expressed their discomfort with management’s directions, are also reportedly being told what to wear.
“Talent should dress in jewel tones — however they should not look political in their dress or attire,” one of the documents read. “Avoid total red, blue and purple dresses and suits. Avoid totally red, blue and purple ties, the goal is to look apolitical, neutral, nonpartisan yet professional. Black or charcoal suits for men. … Females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.”
While the type of professional dress outlined by Sinclair isn’t out of the ordinary of what anchors tend to wear on camera, the way that they are outfitted is typically not imposed by their bosses. With the exception of Fox News, whose former anchor Diane Dimond told the Dana Pretzer Show, “You’ve got to wear your skirts short and your heels high,” networks tend not to have dress codes — especially those that outline a specific color scheme that lend to apolitical associations.
Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, Scott Livingston, told CNN, “Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry,” — allowing outlets to reference the nearly exact speech he gave on television almost one year ago — but it can’t go unnoticed that the language used in the script provided by Sinclair is reminiscent of President Trump‘s rhetoric — specifically when it comes to the emphasis on “fake news.”
According to anchors working under this corporate umbrella, there are consequences to speaking out against Sinclair, or refusing to air these “must run” segments in the exact way as instructed and intended. As one anonymous source told CNN, “I felt like a POW recording a message.”
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