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Sinclair: At the corner of Free Speech and Propaganda

You may have heard about the Sinclair Broadcast Group providing a “must run” script to hundreds of stations across the country. A number of commentators have called it propaganda. Sinclair and its defenders says the company has a first Amendment right to broadcast what it wants.

Here’s a quote from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer describing what was said and HOW it was said:

The KOMO segments feature several different pairs of anchors sticking word-for-word to a Sinclair script they were required to read.”They’re certainly not happy about it,” a KOMO newsroom employee told SeattlePI. “It’s certainly a forced thing.”SeattlePI obtained a copy of the script, which is posted below unedited and in its entirety:

“Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) 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.

Source: KOMO attacks ‘biased and false news’ in Sinclair-written promos – seattlepi.com

I agree that Sinclair is within its rights to express its opinions. That is indeed free speech. If they had simply handed a statement to local anchors to read that identified it as a corporate editorial, there would be nothing to comment on. Because free speech.

BUT, in my view they stepped into propaganda by co-opting the trust that local anchors enjoy in their communities. Sinclair made these people deliver the opinions of the corporate office as though they held those opinions. The anchors became empty vessels for an opinion piece from the corporate office. This should have no place in news.

Sinclair got what it deserved – exposure and revulsion. Hundreds of people reading the exact same script, claiming the thoughts as their own is what we expect of North Korea state media, not US news stations.

Sinclair ought to apologize to their viewers and clearly label corporate editorials as corporate editorials.

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