Sinclair Broadcast Group is asking its managers, including news directors, to considering contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee, a solicitation that violates journalistic norms, ethicists say.
“Please take the time to evaluate the importance that the Sinclair PAC can have towards benefiting our company and the needs of the industry as a whole,” reads an employee solicitation letter obtained by The Washington Post.
Sinclair’s senior vice president of strategy and policy Rebecca Hanson, told The Post there’s was nothing compromising about the request. The news directors “were solicited as a result of being part of our managerial level, not because of their role in editorial,” she said. “Participation is completely voluntary. There is no corporate pressure to participate and no consequence for not participating. It doesn’t put them in any ethical bind whatsoever.”
Journalism ethicists disagree, however. The policy “violates every standard of conduct that has existed in newsrooms for the past 40 or 50 years,” said Lewis Friedland, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin and a former TV news producer. “I’ve never seen anything like this. They certainly have the right to do it, but it’s blatantly unethical.”
Sinclair is in the midst of an FCC review over its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which will make it the largest owner of TV stations in the nation. When that deal closes Sinclair will own, operate and/or provide services for 233 TV stations in 108 U.S. markets.