Arkansas TV Station Defers To Sinclair Broadcasting On Airing Conservative Messaging

Apr 3, 2018

KATV in Little Rock is deferring to its corporate owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group over criticism that the station is participating in a concerted nationwide effort to integrate conservative talking points into news coverage. While nearly every Sinclair owned station has opted-out of responding directly, this morning the station in Madison, Wisconsin announced it did not air a recent Sinclair must-read script, saying it “stayed true to our commitment” to viewers.

KATV has already aired a conservative opinion segment by a former Russian-born staffer of President Trump, Boris Epshteyn, during news broadcasts and its local anchors recently joined hundreds of others across the country in reading Sinclair-produced scripts echoing President Trump’s rhetoric about biased media.

The website Deadspin collected a montage of local anchors throughout the nation conveying the same message.

KATV responded to a request for comment about how the station made the decision to participate by forwarding Sinclair Broadcasting Group's thoughts on the matter.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBGI) (“Sinclair”) today responded to a series of media reports attacking the Company’s recent promotional announcement for its local news. These announcements were responding to the public’s distrust in news generally, confirmed just today by this Monmouth University poll, and spoke to our commitment to avoid such inaccurate reporting. The promos served no political agenda, and represented nothing more than an effort to differentiate our award-winning news programming from other, less reliable sources of information.

“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” commented Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s Senior Vice President of News. “It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable. Our local stations keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”

President Donald Trump responded to media critics by praising Sinclair in a Tweet as “far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik anticipated Sinclair stations moving in a more conservative direction last Spring, "If history is any guide ... Sinclair Broadcast will also pull news coverage on those stations in a more conservative direction and explore giving full rein to those beliefs on a national platform."

The Columbia Journalism Review characterized Sinclair's policies of influencing local stations as an “Orwellian attack on the press.” 

Locally, Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Mortitz pulled out the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Sinclair owns KATV and has been in the process of acquiring KFSM-Fort Smith, KXNW-Eureka Springs and WREG-Memphis in a deal to purchase Tribune Media holdings. KATV is a news and content sharing partner of KUAR Public Radio.