Is Your Local Station Owned by Sinclair? What You Need to Know About Efforts to #BoycottSinclair

Updated | Public outrage toward Sinclair Broadcast Group peaked over the weekend, culminating with the creation of a viral hashtag urging viewers to boycott the media behemoth's TV news stations. The latest uproar came after a video emerged showing dozens of Sinclair news anchors giving identical scripted spiels against "bias and false news" and dishonesty in mainstream media.

The broadcast company, owned by a conservative family backing President Donald Trump, has more than 190 stations spanning coast to coast. Higher-ups at Sinclair have ordered news anchors at local stations to record and air "must-run" segments comprised of right-wing talking points, including a highly controversial segment called "Terrorism Alert Desk." Journalists and commentators have lambasted the corporate mandates for what they say is thinly veiled right-wing propaganda.

Tensions boiled over after it was revealed that Sinclair hired a former reporter for Russian propaganda outlet RT to run a segment on the so-called "deep state." Last week, Deadspin released an eerie video of dozens of anchors reciting the same spiel: "We're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media," the script reads. "More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories...stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first."

How America's largest local TV owner turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump's war on the media:

— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 31, 2018

Sinclair's media empire includes small and large stations across the United States, including popular NBC-, FOX-, CBS- and ABC-branded channels. Because of the advertising strategy, millions of people nationwide may be watching Sinclair-owned channels without realizing it. A map on Sinclair's website and subsequent reports indicate the company could reach between 40 and 70 percent of American households, with a roster of stations spanning from the Pacific Northwest to upstate New York. Here is a full list of stations owned by the company.

Ethics watchdogs have criticized the company for prioritizing commentary above reportage.

"Sinclair is going way beyond the norm to dictate a branding strategy that is also a political platform," Samuel Freedman, an author and professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, told Newsweek. "It's basically cloning the Fox model of being a media company that bashes traditional reportorial journalism."

Freedman added that he despaired for the "fine, principled journalists" who must adhere to the company's policies or risk termination.

President Donald Trump, whose own views are parroted in the mandatory segments, tweeted his support for the broadcast company Monday morning. Trump called Sinclair "far superior" to the mainstream cable networks that have reported critically on his campaign and administration.

So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018

Sinclair Broadcast Group did not immediately return Newsweek's request for comment. Several Sinclair-owned news stations declined to directly comment on the matter, though some of its former employees have been outspoken about their disdain for the "must-run" segments on social media.

I worked for Sinclair during most of my time in El Paso. They were awful & I would never work for them again. What they’re doing now is ridiculous propaganda and it’s an embarrassment to the profession. I feel for my former colleagues being forced to read this garbage.

— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 31, 2018

In 2017, John Oliver released a scathing take on Sinclair's editorial strategy.

This story has been updated to include a quote from Columbia University professor Samuel Freedman and a tweet from President Donald Trump.