UPDATE: April 10 ― Sinclair Broadcast Group has bookended Allied Progress’ ads critical of the company with brief statements defending itself as “a source for truthful news.”
“This station, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, is proud to present both sides of issues,” the company says in a voiceover before the Allied Progress spot that has aired on four stations. “For that reason, we have agreed to air the commercial you are about to see opposing Sinclair’s acquisition of additional television stations. We think the ad is misleading but wanted to let you decide.”
“The ad was purchased by a group known for its liberal bias,” the voiceover continues after the spot. “We hope you won’t buy into the hysteria and hype.”
Allied’s executive director, Karl Frisch, said Sinclair did not contact Allied before inserting the disclaimers. Although the group expected the ads to begin airing last Friday, they did not begin until the weekend.
“That we are a progressive consumer watchdog dedicated to holding special interests accountable is something we wear proudly on our sleeves. We’re clear about who we are. Sinclair is not,” Frisch said in a statement. “By claiming ‘both sides’ and attacking a critic’s liberal politics, they are acknowledging they actively disseminate partisan conservative propaganda, something clearly at odds with their repeated claims to the contrary.”
The viral video showing a dizzying array of local news anchors reciting the same script authored by their stations’ conservative owner, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, is coming soon to the homes of Sinclair customers across the country.
That is, if the broadcaster doesn’t reject it first.
Allied Progress, a left-leaning consumer watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., borrows the alarming mashup for a new 30-second spot that takes aim at Sinclair, which is under fire for requiring journalists to read a statement last month parroting some of the anti-media language used by President Donald Trump.
Allied said Thursday it has sunk six figures into an ad buy on four stations in the Sinclair network: ABC affiliates WJLA in Washington and KOMO in Seattle, and Fox affiliates KDSM in Des Moines and WBFF in Baltimore, which also happens to be Sinclair’s flagship station.
The spot was slated to run a total of about 175 times over the course of one week, beginning Friday, Allied Progress Executive Director Karl Frisch told HuffPost Thursday.
Frisch noted Friday that Allied is still working with Sinclair to schedule the ad space and hopes to have the ads begin over the weekend. He confirmed that ads in Des Moines are set to begin running Saturday afternoon. However, the Seattle station has yet to grant final approval on the spot.
Sinclair did not return a request for comment about the ad.
Frisch said Thursday that an uptick in contributions to Allied may allow it to purchase even more airtime ― if it’s allowed.
“It is certainly a test for the company,” Frisch said. While it’s been silent on the ad buy so far, Sinclair could still refuse to air it.
Reaching 40 percent of U.S. households, Sinclair is the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations and is poised to greatly expand its influence. If the company is successful in its bid to overtake Tribune Media, it will reach an estimated 72 percent of U.S. households. The deal is currently under review by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.
Allied’s spot urges viewers to contact the FCC and demand it shut down the merger.
The commission’s inspector general, David Hunt, is already investigating whether its chairman, Ajit Pai, has acted improperly to benefit Sinclair regarding the deal.
Sinclair faced sharp criticism in the past week after a video showed dozens of its local news anchors warning viewers about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” including the “sharing of biased and false news.”
“The problem with what Sinclair does is they co-opt the credibility that local anchors have built up in their communities over years and decades,” Aaron Weiss, a former Sinclair news director, told CNN Wednesday.
The company’s leadership emphatically defended its decision, which also garnered praise from the president himself.