Sinclair Comes Out Swinging Over Allegations of ‘Sneaky Tactics’

By Kevin Eck 

Sinclair Broadcast Group has responded to the Free Press article “Stop The Media Giants” in which the public interest group claims station groups like Sinclair are using sneaky tactics to gobble up local TV stations, gut newsrooms, and give viewers only a single news voice that is often politically motivated.

“Sinclair is a prime example of what’s at stake,” said the Free Press piece. “The company has long used its local stations to push its own political agenda. It forced its stations to air the anti-John Kerry documentary Stolen Honor two weeks before Election Day in 2004 and made news anchors read a pro-Romney script on the eve of the 2012 election.”

Sinclair has responded in a press release by putting the words “report” and “public interest” in quotes when referring to the Free Press piece. The station group also called the statements made by the piece “egregious.”


The station group defends itself by claiming it has added more jobs and more news hours, while investing in the infrastructure of the stations it has acquired. The company points to a donation of $600,000 made to help victims of this Summer’s Oklahoma tornadoes as well as the hosting of Town Halls to let viewers voice their opinions on highly charged political topics and say the Free Press report is “an affront to the almost 5,600 hardworking and dedicated professionals that work for Sinclair.” You can read the entire statement after the jump.

The statement adds, “It is unfortunate and ironic that so-called ‘media watch dog groups,’ such as Free Press, would flaunt the First Amendment to spew unsubstantiated attacks on those who are truly serving the public’s interest.”

Here’s the entire statement from Sinclair.

BALTIMORE (October 24, 2013) – Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (”Sinclair” or the
“Company”) (Nasdaq: SBGI) commented today on a recent anti-consolidation “report” by the
so-called “public interest” group, Free Press, that misrepresents not only the completely legal
actions by numerous broadcast companies, but also the impact of such structures on news
coverage in local markets. Such statements are particularly egregious given that Sinclair reached
out to Craig Aaron, the President and CEO of Free Press, earlier this year to provide facts
completely contrary to the statements in Free Press’ Report and offered to discuss the issues
further with Mr. Aaron. Sinclair received no response whatsoever to the letter sent to Mr. Aaron,
a copy of which is attached to this press release, indicating that Free Press does not wish to have
the facts interfere with its political agenda.

Despite the actions of broadcasters in providing services to television stations they do not own
being completely legal, publicly disclosed and fully considered and approved by the Federal
Communications Commission (“FCC”), Free Press outrageously claims broadcasters are
engaging in “covert” arrangements, using “loopholes” and acting “in direct violation of the
law.” In addition, despite specific evidence to the contrary, Free Press claims that, “[t]his wave
[of acquisitions] is leaving in its wake shuttered newsrooms and jobless journalists in
communities all across the country” resulting in “the devastation of community-centered
journalism.” Such inaccurate, irresponsible and potentially defamatory comments made by a
group that declined a direct offer from Sinclair to become better informed, demonstrates the bias
and complete lack of credibility of Free Press, which should be taken into account when
considering all past and future comments the group makes

David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair, commented, “To set the record straight, every
transaction we have entered into completely complies with the law and the regulations of the
FCC and where required, as was true in most cases, were approved by the FCC after full
disclosure of each aspect of our transactions. While we respect the right of Free Press to express
its opinion on the advisability of the FCC’s rules, we vehemently object to their misguided and
offensive claims that broadcasters who simply follow the FCC’s rules are using “shell
companies” and “shady tactics” to “dodge” FCC rules.

“Moreover, contrary to the apparently intentionally uninformed views expressed by Free
Press, there is no question on the positive contributions and the substantial investments we have
made in the local markets we operate, especially in the newsrooms. In the past 18 months alone,
we have added a net 77 positions across our organization, of which 72 were news related. Many
of the stations we purchased were dressed for sale, emerging from bankruptcy or under invested
by their prior owners. We have fully staffed those stations, as well as made significant
investments in capital upgrades, programming and promotion.

“Not only have we created jobs, but we have added 81 hours of local news per week, allowing
us to deliver an increasing number of meaningful local news stories to our viewers. We have
made significant investments to upgrade stations to high-definition newscasts so that our
consumers can have a high-quality news experience. But most importantly, through our news
efforts, we have helped countless communities in crisis recover, most recently in Moore and
Oklahoma City where, through our local news stations, our Sinclair Relief Fund raised more than
$600,000 for local charities to help those communities recover from tragedy.

“In the past year, Sinclair TV stations have held more than 40 ‘Your Voice Your Future’ live
town halls around the country focusing on important local issues including gun control, same-sex
marriage, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, immigration, public education, and jobs.
More than 3,500 members of the public have attended these public service events and countless
more have participated live using social media. These town hall telecasts have received
widespread praise and have been recognized with Awards for Excellence by New York State
Broadcasters and Maine Association of Broadcasters and have been awarded an Emmy and an
Associated Press award. In addition, our stations have created public and community service
segments within the local news to discuss and educate the viewer on important topics.

“All told, we currently produce more than 1,055 hours of local news every single week and the
inaccurate comments of Free Press are an affront to the almost 5,600 hardworking and dedicated
professionals that work for Sinclair. Our news employees have dedicated their careers to
providing the public with vital news and information and serving as government watchdogs on
their behalf. We could not be prouder of their outstanding efforts, often in the face of very
difficult circumstances involving natural disasters and other dangerous situations. While Free
Press chooses to ignore the facts, those with a less biased and more informed nature have instead
lauded these efforts. For 2012 alone, stations which we own or provide news programming to
won 27 Emmy Awards, 93 Associated Press / State Broadcaster Awards, 14 other acclaimed
awards, including 3 Murrows; for outstanding journalism, best investigative reporting, and
excellence in news coverage, among other news related assignments.

“It is unfortunate and ironic that so-called ‘media watch dog groups,’ such as Free Press,
would flaunt the First Amendment to spew unsubstantiated attacks on those who are truly
serving the public’s interest. When an organization, such as Free Press, uses a 1945 quote
regarding promoting diverse viewpoints to chide and insult the Federal Communications
Commission’s ethics and intelligence, without recognizing the changes in the dissemination of
information that have occurred in the last almost 70 years, then that should be a red flag that the
organization is not working in the public’s best interest and is simply disconnected to the real
world and its multiple voices found in newspapers, cable networks, radio, outdoor, television and
the Internet. Their own comments demonstrate that the issue is not one of too few voices, but
rather that not everyone who uses the press to promote their own agenda is credible.”