Forget Fox–Sinclair Broadcasting Could Be Just What Trump Is Looking For

Most are aware of Donald Trump’s…shall we say, loathing of any media coverage not favorable toward him.

He calls the media “the enemy of the people.”

He attacks the “failing New York Times. 

He first dubbed CNN the”Clinton News Network” before then re-branding it “FNN–Fake News Network.”

The Washington Post is now, according to him, “Amazon Washington Post.

There’s the “dishonest,” “money losingPolitico; “ratings starvedMeet the Press; “failing” Forbes magazine; “low ratings” Morning Joe; the “dying” or the “ever-dwindling” Wall Street Journal.

The list continues.

This war on the media escalated last month when the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), via the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities websitesolicited private contractors interested in creating “Media Monitoring Services”–i.e., a searchable database for information about journalists and media outlets, including social media.

Some could argue Fox News was the closest this country had to “state media” tantamount to the types other countries’ right-wing dictatorships employ to disseminate propaganda.

Until now.

Enter Sinclair media.

Gaining the nickname “Trump TV,” Sinclair has made its agenda obvious when chairman David D. Smith met with the president earlier this month to pitch a new product to administration officials–a system to enable authorities broadcasting capabilities directly to Americans’ telephones.

In an interview, Smith said:

“I just wanted them to be aware of the technology.”

That technology involves chips for televisions, cell phones, and other devices, part of a new broadcasting standard called “Next Gen TV.

Last November, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to make incorporating chips voluntary. Sinclair has not demanded compulsory installation, but stated the federal government might need to revisit the proposition in the future.

In addition to entertainment purposes, the chip would allow mobile devices to receive messages from a government public warning system, through which authorities can transmit video and multimedia statements even when telephone lines are not functioning.

Ben Carson, now Trump’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, helped arrange a meeting at Trump Tower with David Smith after Trump secured the Republican nomination.

Smith recalls:

“I asked [Trump], ‘Would you like us to embed with you during your campaign?’ And he brought a bunch of people in the room, and he said, ‘Well, whatever’. And I said: ‘We are here to deliver your message. Period.’”

Smith refutes the suggestion that his statement constitutes a partisan endorsement. According to Smith, it merely indicates the invitation for Sinclair to interview Trump whenever he wished. That invitation also extended to Hillary Clinton, who refused the offer.

Smith denies Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner’s, claim the Trump camp struck a deal with Sinclair for favorable media coverage.  

Be this as it may, and despite Smith’s claim he has “zero tolerance” for “political spin,” since 1995 Smith contributed $206,650 to Republicans versus $132,350 to Democrats in congressional and presidential campaigns, according to federal filings.

Former Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, hosts news analysis segments on the Sinclair network. Smith defends this with the claim Epshteyn does not deliver news.

Smith said:

“He does commentary, and it is defined as commentary throughout.”

Sinclair is sometimes compared to Fox, but the difference between Sinclair and Fox is stark.

Fox is a cable television channel viewers have a choice to tune into or not. Sinclair, though, is the biggest owner of local television in the country. If federal regulators approve a proposed $4 billion takeover of a rival company, its reach could extend to 72% of American households. Viewers may not even be aware they are being subjected to Sinclair’s reporting since it will have subsumed many local stations with which audiences are already familiar.

Michael Copps, former George W. Bush-appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, calls Sinclair “the most dangerous company most people have never heard of.”

The New York Times referred to it as a “conservative giant” that has employed 173 television stations “to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda.”

The Washington Post characterizes it as:

“[A] company with a long history of favoring conservative causes and candidates on its stations’ newscasts.”

Sinclair gained widespread notice recently when a video of its anchors reading an identical script attacking “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” went viral.

Donald Trump couldn’t resist the opportunity to tweet:

“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

Image credit: The American Prospect

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.