Last month, news anchors at Sinclair Broadcast Group’s TV stations were required to read a script critical of “fake stories” and general bias in the major news networks. Because some of the phrasing mirrored President Donald Trump’s overcooked critique of liberal media outlets, the story triggered widespread and overwrought warnings about authoritarianism and the rise of state-run media.
It’s true that Sinclair, the largest owner of U.S. TV stations, would have been better off following the lead of the big outlets: hiring and working with people who subscribe to the same worldview and then simply letting them do their thing. But as long as we have a media market and inhibit government meddling in speech—thank you, Citizens United and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai—the idea that we are powerless to turning away from “propaganda” is nothing but alarmism.
Every Sinclair market has an alternative local news station for viewers, not to mention other sources of information consumers can read and listen to if they desire.
Then again, having read the panicky coverage before watching the Sinclair videos, I was surprised by the innocuousness of the spots. The anchors were plainly reading a scripted public service announcement that claimed there is a “troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories” at major news outlets and then offering themselves as an alternative.