Viewer Finds Sinclair's Must Runs "Extremely Jarring"

This is a good example of how Sinclair viewers are reacting to the company's "must run" propaganda across their stations. 

The Portland, Maine Press Herald says that Marc McCutcheon of South Portland was watching WGME’s evening newscast as he has for half a century when something came on that shocked him.

In the midst of the local news, a taped commentary from President Trump’s former special assistant Boris Epshteyn appeared on the screen, trumpeting the administration’s position with what he thought selective use and abuse of facts.

McCutcheon, a small-business owner and political independent, describes the experience as “surreal,” “extremely jarring” and “so out of place with the friendly, local broadcast from news people I’ve come to trust over the years.” There was no rebuttal, no context, no alternate point of view – a situation he found concerning.

Portland’s WGME, a CBS affiliate, and its sister station WPFO, a Fox affiliate, are required to air them. They are the only stations in Maine that are forced to run editorial commentary by their corporate parent.

“It’s unheard of to have one company pushing one specific agenda reaching so many people and doing it in a way designed to evade local input,” says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, a Washington-based group that opposes media consolidation. “The idea of having local stations offer an array of viewpoints is great, but what we get with Sinclair is one set of political leanings being broadcast everywhere.”

Aaron says Sinclair has been ratcheting up its pro-Trump commentary in an effort to get special treatment from the administration, which in April lifted a rule on ownership concentration that would have prevented Sinclair from buying the Tribune stations.

“They are essentially gaming the system,” he says. “It’s even more nefarious given that Sinclair has been dedicated to boosting one party, and one wing of that party in particular, the Trump wing.”

WGME station manager Tom Humpage did not respond to numerous interview requests. But in short written responses to questions from the Maine Sunday Telegram, Sinclair Broadcasting Vice President Scott Livingston defended the “must run” editorial segments. “We believe our commentaries contribute to the diversity of views in the marketplace,” he wrote, but would not say why the company does not provide a variety of perspectives to its affiliates.

As for the union at the station? 

“The bottom line is that this is (Sinclair’s) TV station and they can run whatever they want to run,” says Matthew Beck of IBEW Local 1837. “Employees have to run what the company tells them to run, and that is pretty much where it ends right there.”