OURVIEW: Sinclair script reveals danger of widespread media consolidation

Each week the editorial board reflects on a current issue in Our View. The position taken does not reflect the opinions of everyone on the Hilltop Views staff. This week’s editorial board is composed of Viewpoints Editor Lauren Sanchez and writer Collin Mims.

In case your life was lacking a healthy dose of dystopian horror, you can watch this video pieced together by Timothy Burke, which features several hundred news stations reading from the same script in which they condemn the “fake news” that permeates the news stations and social media. They also followed up with the assertion that their station is, naturally, dedicated to only spreading the truth.

This “forced read” was based on a script provided by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is currently the largest broadcaster in the United States. While this assertion is not dangerous in itself, there’s plenty of room for this to go awry. This is problematic when those who claim to be unbiased are, in fact, biased, especially when the rhetoric used obviously mirrors that of Donald Trump.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, at least 57 percent of Americans in 2016 received their news through local cable news. Another study by Videa found that out of 1,145 Americans, 61 percent trusted local news channels more than national media outlets such as CNN or FOX News. In addition, local news outlets focus on exactly what you think they would, local news. CNN is unlikely to focus on an important event in your town, a missing person in your area or just general news centralized in your city.

Having these news stations owned by one major media corporation abuses the trust viewers have for their local news stations. It ensures that one agenda will be widespread over the country, which is exactly the kind of spread of misinformation people want to avoid when dealing with nationwide news outlets.

This is, of course, all thanks to the Federal Communications Commission under the Trump Administration. According to Politico, the current head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, found a way for Sinclair to be able to go over the nationwide audience cap of 39 percent. After the proposed sale of Tribune Media is approved, Sinclair will be able to reach 72 percent of U.S. households. That’s more than 200 news stations, including 40 in Texas, broadcasting propaganda all over the country.

To be more succinct, this gives a very biased group of people the opportunity to influence the information that is being presented as unbiased and unfiltered. Information is in many ways power, and by choosing what people can and cannot know, Sinclair holds a very powerful hand indeed. Given their more right-leaning inclination, this runs the risk of being very pro-government propaganda, which aims to dismiss criticism aimed at the policies and actions of the White House.

In many ways, this is more insidious and dangerous than accidentally providing falsehoods. In providing bias labelled as honesty, Sinclair is preventing viewers from being critical of their news sources.

While it’s important that we be aware of political bias and the fact we must be critical of news, it would ultimately be better for us to simply make an effort to get our news from several sources and to fact check things ourselves. Is it efficient? No, but at least it is an active and involved response to the issue of journalistic integrity. Ultimately, this instance reminds us that we must be critical of the information we are given, and we have to remain vigilant to misinformation and bias.