Charleston ABC affiliate WCIV channel 4 is part of Sinclair Broadcast Group's controversial on-air promotion targeting “the troubling trend of irresponsible one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”
The script is delivered by on-air personalities and required at Sinclair stations coast-to-coast.
Journalism watchdogs have slammed the message as part of conservative-leaning Sinclair's goal to push TV news to the right while casting aspersions on the competition.
Lines in the script include:
"The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.
"More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.
"This is extremely dangerous to our democracy."
Sinclair owns or operates nearly 200 stations in the U.S., including five in South Carolina markets: WCIV, WPDE in Florence/Myrtle Beach, WACH in Columbia, and WLOS and WMYA in the Greenville/Spartanburg area. Other stations ran the promo as well.
The deliveries have been picked apart by some journalism critics who have dubbed the scripts "Sinclair’s brainwashing anti-media promo," or "the hostage video" because employees in news departments are required to read them.
The WCIV version, available online at the left-leaning MediaMatters.org, features anchors Jon Bruce and Tessa Spencer Adams.
The promos first aired in March. A mashup by Deadspin of local anchors nationally parroting the corporate script has since gone viral.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has come to Sinclair's defense, tweeting "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke."
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
It is not known how often the segment is airing locally in Charleston or if it is still being used.
WCIV's station manager supplied a company statement on the matter.
“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” said Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news.
“It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable. Our local stations keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”