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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Regional Media

I found this tidbit in TPM's article about Trump's "not all media" comment a bit disturbing:

Cabinet officials will be “focusing on the regional media, which we find to be a much more credible media to be honest with you. In fact, I found it to be incredible how good they are,” he said.

Could this be a nod to Sinclair Broadcasting Group's takeover of local media stations?

If you haven't heard of it yet, Sinclair Broadcast Group is a media company that owns hundreds of local TV stations across the United States. By some estimates, it's able to reach 70 percent of American households. While there's nothing inherently wrong with owning hundreds of local stations, things do get morally questionable when it comes to how Sinclair approaches editorial control. Ideally, the news department of a TV station, be it local or one of the big national cable channels, would have editorial freedom from the channel's ownership. This is obviously not always the case (see News, Fox), but it's the goal. This freedom allows journalists to follow stories without fear that they might run afoul of a rich boss's financial interest or personal political grudges or what have you.
That is decidedly not what's happening at Sinclair broadcasting. In fact, just the opposite. Sinclair is taking newscasts that previously dealt in local news and politics and is now forcing heavily partisan, conservative opinions on national issues down every single station's throat.

I think the answer is yes. From Politico last December:

Donald Trump's campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives Friday in Manhattan.
Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks.
In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.

 And Trump's FCC has been helping this along:

Sinclair Broadcast Group is expanding its conservative-leaning television empire into nearly three-quarters of American households — but its aggressive takeover of the airwaves wouldn’t have been possible without help from President Donald Trump's chief at the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair, already the nation’s largest TV broadcaster, plans to buy 42 stations from Tribune Media in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, on top of the more than 170 stations it already owns. It got a critical assist this spring from Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who revived a decades-old regulatory loophole that will keep Sinclair from vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership.
The change will allow Sinclair — a company known for injecting "must run" conservative segments into its local programming — to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations. That’s nearly double the congressionally imposed nationwide audience cap of 39 percent. 

Yesterday, I noticed a sudden shift on CNN from a largely tepid "Did they do it?" with regards to #TrumpRussia to, "They did it, now what?" I think Trump was fed the line about regional media, and we need to be on the lookout for a stepped-up propaganda battle on local news now that Trump finally appears to be almost entirely losing the trust of mainstream media outlets.

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