Last year, Last Week Tonight aired an eye-opening segment on Sinclair Broadcast Group, a right-wing telecommunications company that currently reaches 40 percent of American households.
Host John Oliver was critical of Sinclair’s extreme conservative bias, including its hiring as chief political analyst former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, whose rants air multiple times per week on all of Sinclair’s 193 stations; its policy of mandatory “must-run” segments from brass, such as the bogus claim that the FBI had a “personal vendetta” against Trump’s ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn; and much more.
“Last year, we told you about Sinclair Broadcast Group—a company which, if their acquisition of Tribune Media is approved, could soon own local stations reaching 72 percent of TV households,” said Oliver on his HBO program Sunday night. “In that story, we talked about Sinclair’s ‘must-runs’—stories that station managers are forced to include in their broadcasts, which often skew noticeably conservative.”
According to Oliver, some of these were an investigation into the “Deep State” that is supposedly undermining President Trump, and the unconvincing commentary of Epshteyn, who is apparently 35 years old—or “the same age as Nicki Minaj while somehow looking like Jon Favreau’s father.”
In early March, CNN broke the news that Sinclair was planning on forcing its local news anchors to read a media-bashing promo script that sounds like it came directly from Trump’s lips:
“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’... This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
One anchor called the mandatory promo “manipulative,” while another told CNN that they “felt like a POW recording a message.”
“Sinclair took their game to a new level,” Oliver remarked. “That statement is creepy enough, but when you see just how many local stations were forced to read it and you watch them together, as many have been doing online in the last couple of days, you begin to realize the true effect of Sinclair’s reach and power.”
Oliver then aired a clip of numerous Sinclair anchors reading the “must-run” message at the same time, courtesy of Deadspin.
“Yeah. Nothing says ‘We value independent media’ like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult,” said Oliver. “I guess what I’m saying here, Sinclair, is that as a news organization, I believe you make no sense.”