Several local Pennsylvania newscasts sounded similar this week, as anchors at Sinclair Broadcast Group stations were forced to read from the same script decrying "fake stories" and "biased reporting."
The script, which anchors at stations across the country were required to read, echoes announcements that aired last year by Scott Livingston, the vice president of news at Sinclair, which accused the national news media of publishing "fake news stories."
"This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media, and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting," Livingston said in a statement to CNN, which had obtained a draft of the script from a memo Sinclair management sent to local stations. "This promo reminds our viewers of this mission."
Jane Hall, a professor at American University and a former Fox News media critic, didn't share Livingston's opinion about the scripts.
"It's naked in the sense that it's forcing people in the news to read something that is a corporate piece of propaganda, in my opinion," Hall said this month on NPR's Morning Edition, noting that it highlights the idea of "fake news" pushed by President Trump. "[It's] something that just can't be seen as anything other than promoting Donald Trump's view of the rest of the news media."
Sinclair doesn't own any news stations in Philadelphia, but has four news stations across Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, Altoona, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
The company has angered many of its local journalists by forcing stations to run content that has a pro-Trump bend, including "must-run" political segments by former Trump campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn and Terrorism Alert Desk segments that almost exclusively focus on stories involving Islam.
Here are four almost identical clips from Pennsylvania stations that were forced to read the corporate-sponsored script. The first, read by WHP anchors Robb Hanrahan and Jasmine Brooks, aired on CBS21 in Harrisburg during the 10 p.m. news on March 23:
The second, read by WJAC anchor Jen Johnson, ran on NBC6 in Johnstown on March 23 during the noon news:
The third, read by WOLF anchors Ryan Cummins and Jamie Innis, aired on Fox56 in Scranton on March 24 during the 6 p.m. news.
The fourth also aired on CBS21, this time read by read by anchor Jessica Guay. Guay's segment aired on Wednesday during the station's 5:30 p.m. newscast:
Sinclair is attempting to work out a deal to purchase 42 television stations owned by Tribune Media Co., which includes WPHL 17 in Philadelphia. If the FCC allows the deal, valued at $3.9 billion, to go through, Sinclair would gain access to more than 30 additional television markets and become the country's largest broadcaster by far, reaching about 72 percent of homes nationwid .
Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission selected by President Trump, is under investigation by the FCC inspector general for his ties to Sinclair. Pai suggested changing ownership rules related to how many local stations a company could own, which would pave the way for Sinclair's purchase of Tribune.
"I am particularly concerned about reports that Chairman Pai may have coordinated with Sinclair to time a series of Commission actions to benefit the company," Rep. Frank Pallone (D., N.J.), one of two congressmen to request the investigation, said in a statement in February.
Here is the full script all three news organizations read from: