Sinclair Is Reportedly Set to Go Toe-to-Toe With Fox News

By A.J. Katz 

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country’s largest owner of local TV stations, as well as cable networks Tennis Channel and, if regulators approve, WGN America, is reportedly preparing to challenge Fox News in the right-leaning national TV news sphere.

According to Politico, Sinclair executive chairman David Smith has been holding meetings with potential future employees, including former Fox News talent. This would seem not to include former Fox Newser Eric Bolling, who is getting his own show on streaming service CRTV, and the  company has already said it has no interest in hiring Bill O’Reilly, but cable news veteran Greta Van Susteren is on Sinclair’s short list.

Even though Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has said a 24-hour national news network is not in the works, his boss, Smith seems to like the idea of a few hours of prime time opinion programming to challenge Fox News, which will be a tough slog to say the least. And there are already national challengers from the right, including Newsmax TV and OAN.

Smith, who has been personally involved in at least some of the meetings, still appears to be working through several aspects of the plan, including which of those networks would house his news and opinion programming. He has been discussing a block of at least three hours, but also potentially up to six. Smith is settled, though, on basing his new operation in Washington, D.C., just down the road from Sinclair headquarters in Baltimore, said the person familiar with the discussions. The company already owns local Washington station WJLA, where it produces some of its national content.

Sinclair chief revenue officer Rob Weisbord spoke to Adweek last month about the status of the deal to acquire Tribune Media, saying It’s still alive. We’re waiting on the government to make their decisions. We are cautiously optimistic that something will be closed in the second quarter, but it’s all in the hands of Department of Justice right now.”

If the deal goes through, Sinclair will own-and-operate roughly 230 local stations, including stations in the nation’s top seven markets.

The broadcast behemoth has come under fire recently after the sports and media commentary site Deadspin published a video showing dozens of anchors at Sinclair-owned local stations around the country reading what appears to be the same, scripted anti-mainstream media message on-air. The mashup went viral.

Sinclair’s must-run promo includes a warning about fake news from other media outlets, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment “if you believe our coverage is unfair.”