Nostalgic for the good old days of local news on TV

Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo

When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for local news staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?

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