Owned And/Or Operated By Sinclair Broadcasting

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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48 Responses

  1. If Sinclair (or anyone) owns a majority of the stations in some area, the Fairness Doctrine should be applied. It won’t, of course.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    This should be a series of “Government not following it’s own rules and regulations.”Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      The rules also authorize waivers on a case-by-case basis. The issue is that strict enforcement of the rules defeats the purpose of the rules:

      As the chart shows, the difference is dramatic – stations in large and small markets barely seem to be in the same business from a revenue standpoint. Large market stations average 20 times the revenue of those in the smallest markets, and the stations in the top 25 markets average two and a half times the revenues of those stations in the next 25 markets. With these differences, it’s no wonder that the only way that all but the most dominant stations in small markets can survive with significant program commitments (like news programming) is to combine with other stations in their market. The Sinclair deal makes that very clear – as Sinclair was unable to find buyers for stations in two markets – Charleston and Birmingham. When the FCC would not permit them to do any sort of sharing agreement, they simply turned in the licenses. This prompted Commissioner Pai, who disagreed with the Commission’s decision on JSAs, to ask how the FCC’s interest in promoting consumer choice in programming was fostered by the lessening of the number of stations available in a given market.


      • Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Does that constitute an exception you can drive a truck through?Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Most regulations have some sort of waiver or variance, and their existence is baked into the standards.

          But certainly if strict application of the standard meant that Charleston no longer had an ABC station, it’s not clear how diversity is helped. (It looks like Sinclair ended up selling the channels to African-American conservative Armstrong Williams though, so diversity was maintained.)Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

            Thus, all Sinclair (or a similar company) needs to do is target areas where it would be trivial to get a waiver and the regulation becomes pointless.Report

  3. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t know that cable is comparable media anyway though. My impression is that people who would have bought newspapers in an earlier day are more likely to watch the local evening news.Report

  4. Tod Kelly says:

    I’m not sure that it matters.

    All television news is terrible, but the past few years have really opened my eyes as to just how much more terrible local news is as compared to its national counterparts.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Depends on what you’re looking for. The local news is bad for the national, but the national news doesn’t help a whole lot with the local. Particularly in the area of sports. One of the local news guys is one of the go-to on news regarding my alma mater, for example. And even state politics, it’s them and the newspapers. Newspapers are better, generally, but local TV news is free.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m looking for “somewhat in the neighborhood of accurate.”

        One of the things we always do when I approach a new story for MC is go over how its been covered by the local media in whatever city it happened. Most of what we find is that the local tv news stories that exist are inaccurate to the point that it appears the field reporters just made stuff up. When they don’t make stuff up, they do zero fact checking, even with particularly outrageous claims — though they do frequently (and inaccurately) report that they have fact checked. Most “experts” interviewed I talk to admit they don’t know much about what they were supposed to have been experts about, they are just part of a pool and their number was up — and a few go so far as to share they were given a light script by the reporter as to what they were supposed to say.

        They’re pretty God-awful.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

        Local news is one of the biggest producers of fear mongering media stories, working hard to make as outrageous a claim as they can for a complete nothingburger story as they can in order to get eyeballs on the 6 or 11o’clock news.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Yeah, that is my experience.

          It’s also my experience that they are happy to run cover for obvious grifters if the grift in question is “feel-good” enough to make a compelling-sounding narrative for a 3 minute TV news spot. Most of the charlatans I have covered got to the point they did in part because local news shows were willing to be overly-credulous advertisers for whatever con they were running.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          That’s why its dangerous for sincere Far Rightists to take them over. The fear mongering of local news is the perfect way for them to spread their message.Report

          • Margaret Pickering in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Agree. Very upset about Sinclair and Nexstar controlling the news I see. Can’t afford cable. Am angry with U.S. government for allowing this. Reminds me of state controled news.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          If it bleeds, it leads is absolutely a product of local news. The average viewing age for news in general is north of 55. You can tell this by the ads. My office share space keeps CNN or MSNBC on in the day room. Half the ads seem to be from a law firm that handles mesothelioma cases. The other half are about selling part or all of your life insurance. Not exactly the youth market here.

          One of the bigger tragedies of the Internet is the death of good local news. The alt weeklies went bust. Local newspapers went bust. Websites have had trouble getting money unless they focus on food and entertainment or real estate (Eater, Curbed, and Hoodline).

          The New York Times and Washington Post can have good metro sections because they are national papers.*

          So I hate what Sinclair is doing but it seems running it at a loss for other purposes might keep it alive.

          *The SF Chronicle is a horrible newspaper except for restaurant reviews. Their website runs like a third rate HuffPost for Bay Areans who were in their teens and twenties from 1980-1994. IIRC they get more money from running an event and share space on their ground floor than from circulation and advertising.Report

          • As far as newspapers go, I think consolidation is largely good. The more cooperation the better. It’s frustrating that the NYT and Washington Post are independently owned, because if they owned papers from across the country they could do more things like “Subscribe to the Dallas Post and get access to the Washington Post’s online archives” and the like.

            In the last season of The Wire, they were lamenting the Baltimore Sun’s closure of their Moscow bureau. Did the Baltimore Sun ever need a Moscow bureau? No, if Tronc having one might make sense, and Tronc owning 50 more papers and sharing more non-local content might be more economical, and it appears that they don’t do all that much of that.

            It is along these lines that I view the FCC allowing newspapers and local TV channels the ability to have common ownership to be a good thing. We may need to worry more about keeping these afloat (especially the newspapers) than about them having too much influence.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

              The New York Times does offer a California Journal/Section. But I don’t know what business model can do what you are describing but it is an interesting idea.

              I suppose it made sense for the Baltimore Sun to have a Moscow bureau because there was once enough money for them to do so. I’ve never really experienced so-called Golden Ages but I have seen them and/or heard about them.

              I’ve seen journalists describe working in the 1980s as a time when cash was just coming in and there were all sorts of perks. Allegedly Time thought nothing of giving you a car service to the Hamptons. So everyone had money and the papers could afford having staff in Europe.

              When I was teaching English in Japan during the early aughts, everyone said that the 80s were the real golden years before the bubble burst and Japan entered their long-term whatever is going on with their economy. I wasn’t teaching in horrible conditions but the old-timers made it sound like teaching in the 1980s was a kind of utopia and there was tons of cash and options.

              If I had to take a guess, this crash is coming to tech next (but who knows when). Right now, it is basically mandatory for tech companies to offer all kinds of generous perks to their employees. Good food that is free and/or subsidized, super-generous employment and benefit packages, offices with nice gyms and/or other entertainment, happy hours, fun off-sites, etc.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                If I had to take a guess, this crash is coming to tech next (but who knows when).

                If I had to guess, there are two dynamics that are adding all sorts of weirdness to the tech situation.

                1. The big companies in California are pretty much colluding to not headhunt each others’ employees. “Poaching”, it’s called. As for smaller companies, if you and your buddies at Google all come up with an idea for a great ap and you say “let’s all quit and start our own company!”, guess what? You might be liable for “Tortious Interference”!

                This sort of thing gives *HUGE* amounts of power to employers at the expense of employees.

                2. H1B Visas.

                Due to these two dynamics, I’m guessing that the crash ain’t coming anytime soon.Report

              • The New York Times does offer a California Journal/Section. But I don’t know what business model can do what you are describing but it is an interesting idea.

                Yeah, but it’s not like it’s a bureau. I signed up for the daily summary, thinking I was going to get access to a bureau — the NYTimes doing real reporting on important news from the state with 12% of the US population and the sixth (or seventh, or fifth, depending on how you count) largest economy in the world. What I got was, with occasional exceptions, a set of links to other stories, mostly stories from the NYTimes that they would have run as national news anyway, and a few from California newspapers.

                At least they haven’t asked me to pay for it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                “I suppose it made sense for the Baltimore Sun to have a Moscow bureau because there was once enough money for them to do so.”

                “I’ve seen journalists describe working in the 1980s as a time when cash was just coming in and there were all sorts of perks. Allegedly Time thought nothing of giving you a car service to the Hamptons. So everyone had money and the papers could afford having staff in Europe.”

                It “made sense” if your definition of “make sense” is “This doesn’t immediately bankrupt the company.”

                Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And the print media’s biggest flaw was likely an inability to think ahead and plan for the future.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

                Being a miser and very-savings oriented is very hard for a lot of people seemingly. This is not completely unique to journalism. The financial crisis had a lot of people riding high on speculation and paying themselves really well until the whole thing came crushing down and Lehman and Bear Sterns went belly up and lots of people lost their homes and jobs.

                I suppose this is because being a self-denying ascetic is often not very fun. Maybe psychologically a lot of economic growth is fueled by reckless speculation and spending and mania.

                Right now tech needs to compete for talent and they can because venture capitalists and other investors need places to park their cash. I suppose a company can try to succeed by spartanism and saying “Hey this is a no frills place to work but we are thinking of long-term and sound financial planning” but realistically how many people is that going to attract especially younger workers with the talents.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                The only way to go the no frills approach is if the working is really interesting in and of itself and you offer saner hours than everybody else. You can’t do either. A lot of the work is going to be routine and boring even for very interesting areas like artificial employment. Saner hours will get you killed by the companies that work everybody to the max. Therefore, you have to offer really good perks and/or high salary even if that doesn’t make financial sense.Report

              • InMD in reply to Kazzy says:

                I think its not only about a successful business model. Most of the country’s premier papers were owned by wealthy, prominent families during what we look at as the golden ages. I think the NYT is the only one that still sort of is even though it’s a public company. Papers were operated as independent power brokers on behalf of those families and in alignment with their politics, not as big profit making business enterprises in the modern sense. There are a lot of ways in which Jeff Bezos is not Katharine Graham.

                I don’t think these things were ever hugely profitable but rather made enough money to be sustained with limited enough resources from their benefactors to be a worthwhile investment. The internet has not only made it tough for them to even break even, but also undercut their ability to peddle influence. The latter I think is just as important of an explanation of why they’re a shell of their former selves as is the former.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to InMD says:

                There was a period of time, roughly mid 80s to late 90s, where computers made newspapers immensely profitable due to the productivity gains, until the point computers destroyed everyone’s business model by obliterating the market for classified ads.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                I suppose my point was that saying, “It worked back then so it made sense,” feels like poor logic.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            The Internet might be killing local news media but it is making local news global. You have news papers in the United Kingdom like the Daily Mail covering local salacious news from the United States, things that would be bellow their notice before the Internet becomes of notice because it gets them clicks.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

              It does appear to me that this is the case.

              Its similar to the newspaper world, where the internet has allowed the unbundling of newspapers- you can get comics ala carte, or sports, “News Of The Weird” or opinion all from separate websites.

              The one thing that you don’t really get is local news maybe because no one has figured a way to monetize that.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            “Half the ads seem to be from a law firm that handles mesothelioma cases. The other half are about selling part or all of your life insurance. Not exactly the youth market here.”

            That’s true of most every channel on TV from 10am-4pm and after 11pm. I don’t even have cable, but I can recite the ads you’re talking about by heart. Do you have a replacement hip that’s needed repairs? If so, you could sue. Some blood pressure medication has been found to be associated with heart attacks. Know your rights.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to Pinky says:

              Though the bullion gold IRAs seem to have gone away. (Which i always found an amusing contrast to “it’s my money and I want it now”)Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I think the big issue is that old saw of media bias and the like and a level playing field in Democracy. For all the right likes to complain about liberal or left-wing bias in the media; the left generally does not have a bunch of corporations or billionaires willing to spend massive amounts of money for lock-step uniformity. MSNBC is not liberal in the same way that Fox is conservative despite what some say.

    IIRC New York had a story last week that said Sinclair was losing viewers over this stuff but not enough to really make a difference.

    The other issue is sheer hypocrisy and gall in the age of bad faith. For all the hand-wringing about the end of bipartisanship, the general pundit solution still seems to be “Liberals please shut up.” So you can have pundits defend what Sinclair is doing while also complaining that David Hogg lobbing back at Ingraham sets a dangerous precedent.

    Apparently losing sponsorship and profits is only free-speech oppression if you are a conservative.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    The best reporting done by local news stations here tend to be advertisements of some kind.

    Hey, it’s Opening Day! Did you know that you can go to the Sky Sox Stadium and watch baseball?
    Hey, there’s a new fast food franchise up on North Academy! Did you know that you can go there and eat?
    Hey, the snow means that ski resorts will be open for another couple of weeks! Did you know you can ski?

    A somewhat close second is coverage of high school sporting events.

    But if they’re covering anything else? They can’t cover negative things about advertisers or potential advertisers, they have to protect property values for the good part of town, and they don’t want to work *TOO* hard. So that pretty much means interviewing people who fell victim to some kind of crime. “House burglarized in crappy part of town! Here’s a 3-second clip of a woman crying and then the newscasters using a sotto voice about how awful it would be for something like that to happen. Next up, the Zoo has a new wallaby exhibit! Did you know you can go to the zoo?”Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      The following story tells us nothing about the subject at hand, but is interesting to me:

      A long time ago, the local news reported on a high school football game in Texas wherein a team managed to score like 5 touchdowns in the last three minutes to take the lead. Then the other team returned the kickoff for a touchdown to retake the lead. But wait! The underdog team did the same thing, winning the game.

      I found out a couple years ago, that didn’t actually happen. The team that scored those five quick touchdowns lost. They made up that last touchdown to give the story an underdog-feel-good thing. They must have spliced in one of the prior touchdowns, figuring that nobody would notice.

      There’s a certain time-and-place aspect to that. Things were such that they had access to the footage of a high school football game, but there was no way anyone had heard of the game or could contradict their reporting of it. Today, someone would look the game up and see. Ten years before, they wouldn’t have had the film.Report

    • Jason in reply to Jaybird says:

      I used to alternate between raging and laughing at a our local news channel (we have your stations down in Pueblo) that had “news first” as their tag line, because it was “news first” and “weather first.” Only one thing can be first, damn it.Report

  7. Michael Cain says:

    Should I feel slighted? I live in a top-20 metro area (by population) and there are no Sinclair owned or operated television stations. There are two Tribune-owned TV stations, operating as a duopoly with shared management and studio facilities. Speculation is that those would likely be sold to Fox as part of the wheeling and dealing associated with the Tribune acquisition.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    This is a good example of where we need better local news:

    Basically, lawmakers in Kentucky are screwing the miners by making it impossible for them to find a doctor that will diagnose black lung. If local media is controlled by the likes of Sinclair, they will down play this story and let the mining companies get away scot-free.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Remember when Rand Paul acted to loosen medical professional certification requirements and everyone gave him guff for it.Report

      • Catchling in reply to Kolohe says:

        A satyr or faun comes across a traveler wandering in the forest in deep winter. Taking pity on him, the satyr invites him home. When the man blows on his fingers, the satyr asks him what he is doing and is impressed when told that he can warm them that way. But when the man blows on his soup and tells the satyr that this is to cool it, the honest woodland creature is appalled at such double dealing and drives the traveler from his cave. The Satyr and the TravvelerReport

      • Murali in reply to Kolohe says:

        Well the other side of the issue is that we also don’t want quacks who would diagnose anything some malingerer wants them to.

        More importantly, we want to be able to prevent people who are too ready to diagnose a disease when the evidence doesn’t support it and people who are too reluctant to diagnose a disease when the evidence does support it from practising. I don’t see how you can do that without professional certification.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    A bit of sleuthing tells me there are no Sinclair-owned or affiliated stations in my area (NYC Metro). Certain cable providers have News12 outlets broken out by region but since I’m on FIOS, I have FIOS’s version of that. Beyond that, we just have the local affiliates for ABC, CBS, NBA, FOX, and the like. Unless I’m misunderstanding things, none of them appeared to be owned or operated by Sinclair. The News12 group is owned by Newsday/the Dolan family.Report

  10. Road Scholar says:

    Relevant maybe: Who’s watching anyway?Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    I don’t why it took so long for it to occur to me that the anchors are doing the ‘serve the 3 eyed fish to Mr Burns’ thing with their delivery.Report