Monday, August 13, 2018

1982 The Sins of Sinclair

Out here in the bucolic boonies we have a law called theft by deception.  Usually it applies to such vultures that steal your identity or your pension money or your house.  But this is a story about a company that is trying to make off with the airwaves, property of the people -- and thus with the world of ideas.
Before you pronounce TV Dead On Arrival, check with David Smith, Executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of TV stations in the country.  The biggest owner you never heard of. Until recently.  He was ready to throw something like four billion dollars at the newspaper formerly known as Tronc for its 42 television properties. Chicago Tribune TV.

This is an idea so bad that even the anti regulation chairman of the federal agency that regulates broadcasting turned his back on the deal which promptly collapsed.

Each Sinclair station is affiliated with at least one of the traditional or newer networks, ABC, CBS,  NBC and Fox and the little guys that live off the carcasses of real network reruns and b-grade originals.

There were two good reasons the deal fell apart.

First is because the company puts words in the mouths of its news broadcasters and second because of a corporate move so dumb and brazen that even FCC chair Ajit Pai couldn’t take it.


Those words have to do with the Sinclair local anchors promoting false equivalencies in news stories and right wing diatribes pretending they’re unique to the station you’re watching but running word for word everywhere.

Now, about that corporate blunder.  Sinclair -- remember, they’re already the biggest owner -- wanted to buy Tribune Broadcasting.

 Expand the empire from about 200 stations to more than 242 all part of the great right wing chorus.  

Believe it or not, there still are some regulations governing use of the peoples’ airwaves.  One of them sets ownership limits.  So Sinclair had to sell some stations.

In some cases the proposed sales were to friendly buyers who would allow Sinclair to program them without owning them.  And that’s where Chairman Pai had enough and set the wheels in motion throw this train off the tracks.

Pai was once a trump favorite. Pai took steps to let the merger to go through.  Until those baloney filled sales to friendlies.

Sinclair is used to those backroom arrangements.  Here in central PA they own the NBC affiliate, but also program the Fox and ABC affiliates.  All three share a news department.  Nice deal, eh?

Among the “must run” segments from headquarters: the near-daily reports from the “Terrorism Desk.” Who are the terrorists?  Guys who look like Timothy McVey or the Klan? No. They’re almost always identifiable as Muslims.
Now, what about this guy Smith.  He has an interesting history.

As Rolling Stone Magazine reported, Smith briefly ran a porn film bootlegging operation out of the basement of a building owned by his father.  The “” website says he’s fond of hookers. No big deal, really.  But in some still-civilized countries, character is considered when granting licenses to broadcast.  I guess we’ve outgrown that.

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To all my friends on America’s highways, please be assured that I am no relation to the broadcasting company of the same name, though we both are dinosaurs.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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