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'Brainwashed cult': US broadcast group slammed for mass 'fake news' promos


US President Donald Trump has defended the nation's largest local broadcast group, after it was revealed that dozens of news anchors read the same scripted promo warning of "fake news".

Sinclair Broadcast Group is facing growing public backlash in the US after social media footage revealed dozens of news anchors reading the same scripted promo warning viewers of fake news.

Earlier this year, CNN's Brian Stelter reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is the largest owner of local news stations in the country with more than 200, would require local news anchors to read a scripted promo warning about fake news.

Some in the news industry expressed outrage at the time, but the anger has intensified over Twitter in recent days after news website Deadspin created a compilation video showing dozens of newscasters reading the same promo.

The spot included language painting the Sinclair-owned local news stations as the promoters of "real news" and refered to other media outlets as publishing "fake stories...stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first".

US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel joined the public scrutiny after viewing the Deadspin clip, tweeting on Saturday: "This is extremely dangerous to our democracy,".

Kimmel isn't the only one to have expressed alarm over to the broadcasting agency's news practices.

John Oliver did a segment on Sinclair back in July 2017, which emphasised the company's injection of conservative political views into their news reporting, including the daily must-run segment "Terrorism Alert Desk" and "Bottom Line with Boris," which is required to air nine times per week and features former Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn.

According to Oliver's reporting, circulating must-run material across all stations is not a common practice by broadcast groups.

Oliver addressed the issue again on Sunday night claiming: "Nothing says 'we value independent media' like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult".

The language in the script reflects President Donald Trump's insistence that the mainstream news media is "fake" and that certain narratives are pushed for political reasons.

"Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think,'" the promo reads.

On Monday, Mr Trump leapt to the defence of Sinclair Broadcast Group claiming "Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke".

But many broadcasters, journalists and celebrities continued to slam Sinclair since the public outcry.

Respected journalist Dan Rather slammed the script as "propaganda" and a "slippery slope".

Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani also tweeted his concerns over the promos, writing, "Sinclair Broadcast Group is buying up local stations all over the country & using them to push their extremely biased agenda".

"Jinx! You owe me a Coke," wrote "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert.

House of Cards creator Beau Willimon urged his followers to boycott the broadcaster and shared a link to a list of all Sinclair's stations. "This is what corporate authoritarian propaganda looks like," he wrote.

The heightened scrutiny of Sinclair's must-run segments comes as the FCC is nearing its final decision on Sinclair's $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media.

That deal promises to extend Sinclair's reach into the nation's biggest markets for the first time with more than 40 additional stations. Opponents of the deal have cited Sinclair's centralized approach to aspects of its news operations as a reason that the FCC should limit the company's expansion.

With Variety.

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