Sinclair Broadcast Group, which faces a storm of criticism for mandating that local anchors read scripted pieces (“must-runs) delivered from its Hunt Valley (MD), has hired Ronn Torossian’s 5W for ongoing PR work.
The company’s most recent PR dustup surrounds a six-figure ad buy placed on four of its stations (DC, Baltimore, Des Moines, Seattle) by liberal watchdog group Allied Progress that opposes the broadcaster’s $3.9B acquisition of Tribune Media, which would extend its reach into 72 percent of US households.
Sinclair sandwiched the AP ads, which featured local anchors reading the HQ political talking points, with disclaimers.
The first ad notes that Sinclair “is proud to present both sides of issues,” including the “misleading” ad opposing the acquisition that viewers are about to see.
The voiceover in the ad the follows the AP spot says, “The misleading ad you just saw focused on a brief promotional message that simply said we’re a source of truthful news.
“It ignored thousands of hours of local news we produce each year to keep you informed. The ad was purchased by a group known for its liberal bias, and we hope you won’t buy into the hysteria and hype.”
Karl Frisch, AP executive director, said in a statement that Sinclair’s spots admit that the company pushes a partisan agenda.
“By claiming ‘both sides’ and attacking a critic’s liberal politics, they are acknowledging they actively disseminate partisan conservative propaganda, something clearly at odds with their repeated claims to the contrary,” he said.
He noted that Sinclair did not follow the standard practice of seeking the client’s permission before bookending its ad. “That did not happen here, which is hardly surprising coming from a company that doesn’t even subscribe to the basic pillars of independent journalistic integrity,” said Frisch.