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April 02, 2018

John Oliver takes on the Sinclair 'false news' promo that's invading local newsrooms

Media John Oliver
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John Oliver talks Sinclair Broadcast Group on "Last Week Tonight."

John Oliver’s latest episode of “Last Week Tonight” gave the host ample opportunity to address those viral videos of news anchors across the country reciting a promo script warning against “false news,” as mandated by telecom giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

In case you missed it, Sinclair owns about 200 news stations across the country, including four in Pennsylvania – WOLF (FOX56) in Wilkes-Barre; WHP (CBS21) in Harrisburg; and WJAC (NBC6) in Johnstown. Lately, the owners of the conservative-leaning broadcast media group has been forcing all of its newsrooms to read the same script on air, chiding other media for perpetuating fake news.

During Sunday’s episode, Oliver spent about four minutes skewering Sinclair’s blatant right-wing agenda, highlighting other “must-run” stories the company's stations have broadcast – Sinclair previously was best know for a politically and racially charged directive that each of its newsrooms create "Terrorism Alert Desks" to produce daily reports on alleged terrorist-related news.

“But recently, Sinclair took their game to a new level,” Oliver said. “A few weeks back, a script leaked with a statement they wanted local anchors to deliver, warning that national media outlets were publishing fake stories, which was echoing one of Trump’s favorite talking points – or more commonly, screaming points.”

He goes on to introduce a medley of anchors reading the promo, saying, “That statement is creepy enough, but when you see how many local stations were forced to read it, and you see it together … you begin to realize the true effect of Sinclair’s reach and power.”

This is not Oliver’s first time calling out the telecommunications giant. Last year, Oliver dedicated nearly 20 minutes to Sinclair and its political infiltration in what’s meant to be unbiased, unpartisan local news.

Sinclair is currently seeking to acquire Tribune Media in a reported $4 billion deal. If successful, that means 42 additional stations will be housed under the Sinclair conglomerate, which will comprise about 72 percent of local news networks, including PHL17.