Scott D. Pierce: Statement mandated by KUTV’s right-wing owner only highlights its hypocrisy

<b>Television • </b>Sinclair is using the trust built by its local station to advance its political agenda.

(Steve Ruark | AP Photo) In this Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, file photo, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s headquarters stands in Hunt Valley, Md.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group-mandated statement about “fake news” is now running on KUTV, and it’s having the opposite effect of what was intended.

Listening to Channel 2 anchors Mark Koelbel and Shauna Lake, reading from the script, express concern “about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country” serves to remind viewers that KUTV’s owner has a long history of one-sided news coverage to promote its right-wing agenda.

The statement asserts that “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.”

Agreed. But Sinclair getting all holier-than-thou about news is equivalent to the Roman Catholic Church lecturing the religious community on matters of sexual abuse.

If this were a genuine concern at Sinclair, its stations wouldn’t be told to run “commentary” from former Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn, which Baltimore Sun columnist David Zurawick called “as close to classic propaganda as anything I have seen in broadcast television in the last 30 years.”

(Courtesy KUTV) KUTV's Sterling Poulson, Shauna Lake, Mark Koelbel and Dave Fox on the set at Channel 2.

Sinclair made a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump and attacked Hillary Clinton. Its “Terror Alert Desk” reports are clearly designed to stir up fear and target Muslims. Anchors at Sinclair stations across the country read from a script suggesting prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was part of an FBI “vendetta.” Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The list of Sinclair inserting its bias into its local newscasts goes on and on.

As is so often the case, those who accuse others of having an agenda are themselves the most agenda-driven. The Fox News Channel has long attacked its competitors, alleging bias. Until 2017, FNC declared that it was “fair and balanced,” when it was neither.

The Sinclair-mandated statement read by Koelbel and Lake features a dog whistle for Fox News fans — that local stations “strive to be fair, balanced and factual.” The company is using the trust built by its local stations to advance its political agenda.

It’s doing that at the 173 TV stations it currently owns or operates, reaching viewers in 40 percent of the country. And if its acquisition of Tribune Media is approved, Sinclair will reach upwards of 70 percent of viewers.

(Tribune Media is in no way associated with The Salt Lake Tribune. And, in a recent FCC filing, Sinclair stated that it will divest itself of Tribune Media-owned KSTU-Channel 13 rather than challenge FCC rules.)

To be clear, this is not criticism of Channel 2′s news operation. It’s not perfect — no news outlet is — but KUTV does have a “commitment to factual reporting” that is “the foundation of our credibility.” Sinclair is undermining the hard work of journalists at all of its stations.

And there’s also an element of people living in glass houses to the Sinclair script. If you’re going to claim that “some media outlets publish these same fake stories without checking the facts first,” you’d better be sure you check the facts on every story to air.

Including the ones mandated by Sinclair.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is a content partner with KUTV.