Christie: Post readers react to Sinclair, WPEC ‘fake news’ editorial

If you’d never heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group — the nation’s largest owner of local television stations — before this week, don’t fret about it.

And don’t worry if you didn’t know that they owned Palm Beach County’s WPEC-Channel 12.

You were in good company. But that’s all changed now.

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Sinclair Broadcast, which is pretty tight with President Donald Trump’s White House and pushes a conservative political agenda through its stations, gained infamy earlier this week when word got out that it forced news anchors at its 170-plus stations to read a “must-run” statement/editorial about “fake news” which also cast aspersions on its media brethren.

And yes, that on-air diatribe included respected WPEC news anchors Liz Quirantes and John Discepolo.

Needless to say, a number of WPEC viewers didn’t take the news very well, hammering the station on social media — Facebook and Twitter — as well as its own website. (It apparently had to shut down comments on the latter, at least temporarily.)

RELATED: Ex-reporter from Sinclair-owned WPEC calls out the company

Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, including WPEC-CBS12 in West Palm Beach, have come under fire for reading a “must-run” editorial about fake news that also cast aspersions on other media. (NBC News)

The Post has been getting some angry letters to the editor about the Sinclair controversy — which its chairman is unapologetic for, by the way.

For example, there was this letter from James Taffuri, of Jupiter:

Dump Channel 12 for unbiased TV news

Thank you to Frank Cerabino for finally exposing the cloak and dagger airing of editorial content by Boris Epshteyn, mandated by a biased corporate parent but fraudulently disguised as a local cut-in. (“Setting the record straight on Channel 12’s fake-news editorial,” Monday)

The clearly ethical conduct needed would be to either clearly label the content for what it is, via disclaimer, or allow for a rebuttal afterward, i.e. a point/counterpoint.

I, for one, discovered these shenanigans a while back and quickly dumped Channel 12 as my local news provider after many years as a viewer. I have found Channel 5 or Channel 25 do the job quite nicely.

We all know the “ones to turn to ” (MSNBC or Fox) to receive our national or international news coverage with whatever slant we choose. Can’t we please leave our local stations as a sacred source for unbiased news and investigative reporting affecting our community?

Truly sad and sickening. [READ MORE]

And this one from Judith Abramson of Delray Beach:

Vigilance needed to spot fake news

Sinclair Broadcast Group is probably the most powerful company you’ve never heard of. The conservative giant owns around 170 TV stations across the country, including our local West Palm Beach CBS affiliate,WPEC. Sinclair has been pushing its right-wing agenda since the Bush administration and, like Fox, has close ties to Trump.

It’s been reported that they order their local anchors to read corporate-written editorials to push their views and criticize other new sources.

This is just another example — as with the plethora of information coming out about Cambridge Analytical, the targeting citizens on Facebook, Russian bots flooding social media every single day and their proven meddling in our elections — at mind control.

I implore my fellow citizens to be more vigilant and realize that they must scrutinize what they hear and read and try to sort out what is opinion and what is real news and not be manipulated. [READ MORE]

WPEC-CBS12 news anchor Liz Quirantes and fellow evening anchor John Discepolo (not pictured) read the “fake news” editorial on-air. (Courtesy of WPEC-CBS12)

So here’s what makes all the Sinclair must-run editorial so concerning to many readers and viewers.

The company is trying to get even bigger. By owning and operating a total of 193 stations nationwide, Sinclair already covers far more than any other station owner.

It is currently trying get Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to buy Tribune Media’s 42 local stations, allowing Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households.

Previously, Sinclair was prohibited from serving more than 39 percent of households under a statute of the Telecommunications Act.

Last year, however, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, under chairman Ajit Pai, brought back to life the technologically obsolete “UHF Discount” rule. The rule, from the pre-digital era when local stations were hard to tune in to, allowed local stations to be counted as a fraction of the 13 “normal” stations found on the “top dial.”

Of course, today most people get all of the old UHF channels as easily as “top dial” channels, making Trump’s resurrection of the old rule not only silly but clearly in violation of both the letter and spirit of the Telecommunications Act. Free Pass and other activist groups are currently suing to prevent the UHF “loophole” and the Sinclair-Tribune purchase from going further, but with corporate masseuse Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, don’t hold your breath.

And while Trump is green-lighting Sinclair, he’s been blocking AT&T’s purchase of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, saying “it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

That would just happen to be the same CNN that Trump repeatedly labels as “fake news,” the same sentiments that Sinclair just happened to echo in its recent collective Trump incantation.

But does Sinclair — and by extension, WPEC — really deserve all of this grief?

Take our poll and tell us what you think: