As a video went viral over the weekend showing how Sinclair Broadcast Group forced all the news anchors at the local TV stations it owns to repeat the same script reinforcing Trump’s “fake news” propaganda, the right-wing media giant began circling the wagons on Monday.
The original video was edited by Deadspin.com and got even wider circulation after John Oliver featured it on his weekly HBO program.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 31, 2018
Sinclair stations across the country started fielding calls from viewers today commenting on the broadcast group’s Orwellian promo campaign and asking questions that Sinclair executives want to make sure get answered only by the properly anointed spin doctors.
An unnamed staffer at the Portland, Oregon Sinclair outlet KATU leaked a copy of an internal memo that the station issued to employees on how to handle the public inquiries that included a not-so-veiled threat against those who may choose to ignore its contents.
This is what reporters at KATU news in Portland are dealing with from Sinclair Broadcasting. Note the second-to-last graph. pic.twitter.com/Wuye2vZ3IT
— Samantha Swindler (@editorswindler) April 2, 2018
Despite the threats of “huge implications,” many of the obviously embarrassed journalists working at Sinclair have spoken out anonymously against the promo campaign.
And in case you hear some right-wing Trump supporter say “well if they don’t like working for Sinclair, they should just quit,” one former Sinclair employee sent a copy of the company’s standard employment contract for on-air personalities to Matt Pearce, the national correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, which shows that employees could be forced to reimburse Sinclair a large percentage of their annual salary in the event that they leave their jobs before their contracts are up.
A lot of people are curious about this, so a former Sinclair journalist sent me a Sinclair contract. Here are the parts about quitting/getting fired. (See that clause about politics? It forbids employees from expressing their personal political views, but not their employer's.) pic.twitter.com/doFwbdl239
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) April 2, 2018
Sinclair is being forced to up its communications strategy to combat the wealth of negative publicity that the exposure of its centralized propaganda factory has generated. As calls for boycotts of Sinclair stations and their advertisers begin to circulate widely on Twitter, Sinclair knows that the genie is out of the bottle and that their campaign to be seen as the antidote to “fake news” has just made them look like the source of it.