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FCC ownership changes + Trump TV's "Real News"

Two separate stories here, but worth noting…

From Politico: On one hand, Trump’s FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has closed a regulatory loophole that would have kept Sinclair Broadcasting from exceeding federal limits on media ownership.

The change will allow Sinclair to reach 72% of U.S. households after it buys 42 stations from Tribune Media on top of the more than 170 stations it already owns. The purchase would nearly double the congressionally imposed nationwide audience cap of 39%.

Sinclair is known for injecting “must run” conservative segments into its local programming.

And then from the Daily Beast: The Trump campaign unveiled a new Trump-friendly news product on social media last week called “Real News,” which is a series of digital ads designed to look like news broadcasts.

How long until “Real News” runs as “must run” segments that reach more than 70% of US households?


These two things are terrifying both separately and in combination.


I remember the rumors of Trump starting his own network/show, but then people thought he abandoned that endeavor after he announced his run for president.

The Trump Team played with the idea a little during the final months of the campaign with “Trump Tower Live” through Facebook, hosted by one of Kushner’s business classmates and friends from his Harvard days [§].

There’s also a memo of Scaramucci’s obtained in June while he was working in the administration but before he was appointed to White House Director of Communications. To get the latter job, he suggested to the White House they could improve their messaging by dropping daily White House briefings and start to use a Facebook broadcast instead, where presumably all questions and interactions could be screened and controlled.

[§] To give an idea of how close Jared and this friend were, when the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak requested Kushner meet with him during the Trump transition, Jared sent that friend as his proxy for the first meeting. That friend then came back and told Kushner that Kislyak wanted a second meeting with the head of Russia’s state-run bank (VEB), Sergei Gorkov, which happened last December, and was the time when Jared asked if they should consider setting up a “secret back channel” using Russian embassies to communicate.

Recommended viewing for more info on Sinclair, in particular their “must-runs”:


I think the bigger question is…who still watches local news? I think people are overestimating the viewership of local news. I know anytime I’ve ever seen it on in someone’s house, it’s usually just on as “background noise”. Plus, majority of millennials and many other are “cord cutters” - unless you get something like PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, you don’t get local news. I think the migration to national news too is huge factor. (I’m embarrassed to say, I actually pay extra every month to get MSNBC through PlayStation Vue.)

This punched me in the stomach so hard I’m sick. I mean, run a segment of must-run real news enough times and that message gets in, background noise or no. And also I think a lot more ppl than you might realize rely on local news. I don’t have research to back that up but everyone likes to know what’s going on in their area, and even if it’s not on a tv a station could still share stories thru their social media accounts. This was not an eloquent reply, I apologize, I really am srsly too sickened by this.


I say that as an organizer. Leveraging our local media is an important part of our strategy. Although, obviously social media is very important too.

New York Times with the deeper look:


So the US has its own propaganda channel now… That’s…ugh


We’ve had multiple propaganda channels for years, we just get to pick the kind we want to hear. There is not and never has been true, unbiased reporting. “Spin” in the news is a constant to rival death and taxes.

Sure, if you like choosing between Coke and Pepsi.

The issue here isn’t about media propaganda (aside from the conservative “must runs” Sinclair imposes on their stations), it’s the deliberate relaxing of rules meant to encourage a diversity of views and competition that are vitally important for making the 4th Estate a healthy check on power.

Rolling back the limits on media ownership just creates media hegemony, which quickly begins to resemble Oceania’s Ministry of Truth…

Fuck that.


I saw someone post one of these last night. Fortunately there was discussion about it rather than cheering and blanket acceptance. It sucks to see that sort of thing held up as truth, but calling it out needs to be backed up with numbers and information from good sources. If you go in with “nuh uh stupidhead”, that is easily dismissed.

In fact, it might be really great to see someone make a thread posting these, and fact-checking every statement using reliable sources. It would be nice to have a list of those sources contained in a post in case people need a quick reference to refute an argument.


I’m not disputing that at all, Matt. It is both appalling and truly frightening that things have come to the point that they have, and change is desperately needed.

I think I just have a more cynical viewpoint perhaps that says we have been choosing between coke and pepsi for years already, and the complacency and apathy that the majority of the country has shown regarding becoming educated voters, or even voters at all is really the true base of the issue.

As citizens of the US we, in large part have, for lack of a better term, become massive slackers. We have ignored our job, to educate ourselves on the issues that affect our lives daily, to demand that the people running for office make their positions on these issues clear, to vote intelligently, and then to hold those people accountable to the voters on penalty of ruining their chances of reelection.

Yes, there is a small, vocal minority of people like us, but there is a vast, overwhelming majority that do not know or care about these sorts of issues, who, if they vote at all, allow themselves to be sidetracked into focusing on so called “morals” issues that candidates use to polarize voters because it’s easier for them to pull at people’s emotions to solicit votes than it is to do the slogging grunt work of explaining to a mostly uninterested populace why they are actually a better choice for the country than their opponent.

If I can be crude about it we’ve been partying along for a while, not paying attention to anything except what interested us, and just woke up, saw who was really there with us in bed and are now seeing what coyote ugly really is.


@mouseam @matt Saw this yesterday and thought of this thread:

Thank you, @catone! This is interesting. It does increase my concern about where older generations are getting the news online though. They are more likely to fall for fake/overly biased news articles. Glad that there is a shift away from local news!

In good news, Maddow closed out on top for August! While Trump supporters like to accuse her of being “fake liberal news”, which is so far off base. Even Bannon admires her, he thought of her as “master of fact-based partisan polemics” and then there was her odd/random relationship with a Roger Ailes, who literally wanted to pay her to simply keep her off the air (scared much? :joy:).


“Interlocking directorates” at work, here (as Professor Chomsky might call them). :slight_smile:

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Haven’t read this, yet, but the plot thickens…

Oofa this was a chunk and a fucking half of article. Don’t know why I feel like writing a book report on it, but tl;dr:

Sinclair’s stations around the country slip hardline political content between local weather, high school sports, and city council reports—broadcasting to a mass audience that, survey after survey shows, trusts local news more than any other medium.

Lots of history of four Smith brothers building their empire (David is the one who met directly with drumpf over dinner).

Their first loophole-ing to acquire more of the market:

Standing in their way was the duopoly rule, a 1940s-era policy preventing broadcasters from owning more than one station in a single market. To take over a second station in Baltimore, their mother, Carolyn Smith, and a Pittsburgh-based African American broadcaster named Edwin Edwards Sr. established a company called Glencairn. With financial backing from the Smith family, Glencairn acquired WNUV, but Sinclair would share advertising sales and staffing and provide 20 hours of programming a day. While Edwards controlled Glencairn’s voting shares, according to FCC records, profit from the new stations would flow through the company to the Smith family.

Coincidentally, then-President Jimmy Carter’s FCC had

introduced policies designed to encourage greater minority ownership of TV stations, and according to the lawyer, it cited that goal in its decision approving an early Sinclair deal with Edwards.

Moving on…

The FCC’s scrutiny caused Smith and his brothers to see the value of friends in Washington. Between 1997 and 2002, the Smith brothers donated nearly $200,000 to Republican candidates and committees in Maryland and at the federal level. The Smiths were also generous with Democrats, when they were in a position to help: One former Sinclair executive told me the company’s political giving “was primarily FCC-driven. Who could be friendly? Who could help them with the FCC?”

Apparently 9/11 was a pretty good days for these fuckwits:

“The management of WBFF Fox 45 stands behind the president,” the anchor said, “and our nation’s leaders in the vow that terrorism must be stopped. If you agree, make your voice heard.” It was days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and soon all 62 of Sinclair’s stations would deliver messages like this, to millions of viewers around the country.

…so that’s nice.

In 2002, the milestone:

Sinclair created a national news desk to produce segments for stations’ local newscasts, and in 2003 it followed up with a Washington bureau.

I’m cracking up about this:

The company’s first choice was not Donald Trump, but Dr. Ben Carson, the retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon. Carson was something of a celebrity in Baltimore and had appeared at Sinclair-sponsored town hall events in the region.

But then drumpf ended up as the GOP nominee, so of course

Jared Kushner, speaking in a postelection off-the-record session, described an arrangement where Sinclair had aired interviews with candidate Trump without commentary in exchange for greater access to the campaign.

(article includes links to both Politico and WaPo with more detail on all of that.)

With the drumpf victory, David Smith is creaming his pants at the opportunity for complete deregulation. And indeed with the new appointees (I had no idea Ajit Pai was a former Sen Sessions staffer!),

FCC has seemingly gone out of its way to grease the wheels for the Sinclair-Tribune merger, reinstating a rule from the Reagan era that could help the company avoid limits on media consolidation.

And they do fun things like respond to criticism of the “must-run” segments by tripling the amount of times the segments must run.

There’s a bunch more slimy history, and some interesting polls, but again, tl;dr, etc.

If the merger is approved, Sinclair’s broadcasts will reach 72 percent of all households. Some media analysts have speculated that with Fox News reeling from cascading sexual harassment scandals, Sinclair senses an opportunity to build a rival conservative network. David Smith is reportedly eyeing a collaboration with Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist who leads Breitbart News. There have also been reports, which Sinclair denies, that the company is pursuing the ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly as well as Sean Hannity.

Whatthefuckever. This is going through, I just don’t doubt it anymore at all. I do, however, enjoy the acts of rebellion like when Seattle’s KOMO station only ran the must run segments at like 4am.


OOOH! I actually fully, 100% encourage this. Maybe that’s a thing we could do on WTF? A sort of book reports section of essays detailing the who, what, setting, context, themes, etc.

That’s way better than op-eds and a nicer way of understanding the context of big hairy topics (like this discussion).


@matt I feel like that was the original intent Ezra Klein had with Vox when he announced it – understand news in context by providing history and detailed timelines. They’ve sometimes done that, but really strayed from the mission because they found out context doesn’t pay the bills. :wink: (Though Vox does still produce some great stuff – their non-news video content is often especially interesting.)

Anyway, +1 to this idea on WTFJH, though, since ya’ll aren’t beholden to advertisers the way Vox is. :slight_smile: