AM radio is already the exclusive preserve of right-wing agit-prop. Is broadcast TV next? The New York Times reports today on the coziness between Sinclair Media and President Trump’s new head of the FCC. Their first tête-à-tête came before Trump was even inaugurated:
The invitation from David D. Smith, the chairman of Sinclair, went to Ajit V. Pai, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission who was about to be named the broadcast industry’s chief regulator.
….Within days of their meeting, Mr. Pai was named chairman of the F.C.C. And during his first 10 days on the job, he relaxed a restriction on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue and other resources — the exact topic that Mr. Pai discussed with Mr. Smith….It was only the beginning. Since becoming chairman in January, Mr. Pai has undertaken a deregulatory blitz, enacting or proposing a wish list of fundamental policy changes advocated by Mr. Smith and his company. Hundreds of pages of emails and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a rush of regulatory actions has been carefully aligned with Sinclair’s business objectives.
If Sinclair’s deal to merge with Tribune Media is approved, Sinclair will own one out of every six commercial TV stations in the country:
As the Washington Post reported several months ago, Trump can likely expect favorable coverage from Sinclair stations:
A review of Sinclair’s reporting and internal documents shows a strong tilt toward Trump. Sinclair gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign while often casting Clinton in an unfavorable light.
….A “must-run” email from Washington managers to stations on Sept. 13 read this way: “DESCRIPTION: Why did Hillary Clinton struggle with disclosing her medical diagnosis? She has been repeatedly faced with previous questions of trust. Can a president lead with so many questions of transparency and trust?”
Another, from Sept. 8: “DESCRIPTION: Hillary Clinton showed up to talk about the responsibilities of being a leader at the commander-in-chief forum and the first question she took from the audience was about the email/server debacle. Clinton has repeatedly admitted it was a mistake, but 18 months since the first story broke and she’s still in the mode of damage control.”
An October “must-run” story was a report about conservative activist James O’Keefe’s “sting” video in which two Democratic-affiliated contractors who were surreptitiously recorded discussed disrupting Republican events and mused about a voter-fraud scheme. Another, on Sept. 9, was titled “Donald Trump Reflections of 9/11,” which also included a package in which Ivanka Trump discussed what she would do in a Trump administration. In early September, it pushed “Women for Trump,” a feature about Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara and another woman who was campaigning for him.
There were no equivalent “must-run” stories examining Trump’s refusal to release his medical or tax records or about questions surrounding his charitable foundation.
Fox News (cable news), Sinclair (broadcast TV), and Clear Channel (AM radio) are essentially state media in the Trump era. That’s a mighty useful thing for a demagogue to have.