Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo

When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?

5 Responses to “Nostalgic for good old days of local news on TV”

  • fillyjonk says:

    I sometimes look up the old Cleveland-market broadcasts on YouTube. It makes me nostalgic. Was local news better, formerly, or am I just in a market now that’s not very good?

    (I remember Channel 8 – WJW/WJKW – best, which used to be CBS. They were the ones we watched, with Dick Goddard and his Wooly Bear Reporters and the like. But we also watched Del and Tom on WKYC in the mornings, because they were funny and were gentler at delivering any news….)

    I admit as a child of the 1970s I am discombobulated by the degree of consolidation of local networks (here, one company owns the CBS and Fox affiliates, and maybe one other, and another network owns the NBC, ABC, and CW affiliate). I’m old enough to remember when A T and T got broken up and I keep wondering if this is coming for media outlets, though I doubt it will happen given the current governmental leanings….

    I was also sad to learn, when visiting my parents in Central Illinois in March, that longtime local news anchor Garry Moore is retiring from the Peoria station he served for 30 years – he was the guy I watched for the news when I was in grad school and I always liked his dry humor and style of delivery.

  • CGHill says:

    I’m definitely interested in seeing the Sinclair/Tribune merger set aside: corporations are constantly arguing that the bigger they are, the better they can serve their customers, and it’s almost never true.

  • Always glad to see people becoming aware of how the information outfits manipulate and lie, as is the case here with Sinclair. But how is Sinclair any different from the rest of the Corporate Media? And you might recall when Clear Channel was taking over a large swath of broadcasting media and imposing censorship and rad righty propaganda the same way Sinclair is trying to do right now.

  • Roger says:

    The “must carry” content from Sinclair is far more pernicious.

  • Well, remember when we all got a load of that permitted playlist of classic rock songs for Clear Channel stations?
    The circulation of that is what turned the public against Clear Channel. This Deadspin video is very much the equivalent of that list.

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