According to Oliver, who's previously touched on Colorado matters in reports about marijuana laws and Denver-based kidney dialysis giant DaVita, Sinclair may be "the most influential media company you've never heard of. Not only are they the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, they could soon get even bigger."
True enough. In May, Sinclair purchased 42 outlets owned by Tribune Media, including Fox31 and CW2. The price tag was $3.9 billion, and as Oliver notes, "it is a little disconcerting to find out that something you've only just heard of is throwing around $4 billion."
The buy still must be approved by federal regulators, Oliver acknowledges. But most observers expect a swift rubber-stamping that will create the largest single group of television stations in the nation.
Sinclair is already using such stations to spread a conservative message via commentaries by former executive Mark Hyman, whose subject matter has included attacks on so-called snowflakes and a defense of the Washington Redskins football team for refusing to replace a name that many people view as racist. And recently, Sinclair added to its mix Boris Epshteyn, a former adviser to President Donald Trump whose own invective flies with the right wing.
The opinions of Hyman and Epshteyn will be much more widely heard once the feds bless the Tribune Media pact. After all, Oliver points out, Sinclair designates these packages as "must-run," meaning that affiliates have to include them in newscasts, whether local managers want to do so or not. And while some affiliates, like KOMO in Seattle, have tried to soften the blow of this edict by airing Hyman's screeds during the wee hours of the morning, the messages will still have an outsized impact.
Likewise, Sinclair also mandates that local stations run updates from its "Terrorism Alert Desk," many of which are dubiously sourced; Oliver highlights one story about ISIS chopping victims in half that was never confirmed by any credible news or government agency.
"The people at this station know that local news should never be about cheap scare-mongering or advancing the political agenda," Schirripa says. "It should only be about weather, sports, I-team investigations and human interest stories featuring cute animals."
He concludes with this: "I'm Steve Schirripa telling you, if this becomes a Sinclair station, good luck with that shit."
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