Open Letter to Sinclair Broadcasting

Open Letter to Sinclair Broadcasting

Posted July 8th, 2017 by seanm

An Open Letter to Sinclair Broadcast Group

Dear Sinclair Board Members, Shareholders and Decision Makers,

We the people of Humboldt County, on the Redwood Coast of California, would like to

welcome you to our community. With your recent acquisition of four local television

channels, you are now a major part of our media landscape. We may be a small market

demographically, but we support our local news outlets and we have high standards and

expectations for corporations that control access to information in our communities.

As the comedian John Oliver pointed out recently on his show “Last Week Tonight,”

Sinclair has earned a somewhat unsavory reputation for biased coverage and inflammatory

“must-run” segments that routinely misrepresent facts in order to benefit right-wing

political agendas (more on this at While this behavior

may stem from a legitimate belief that you are “doing the right thing,” you should be aware

that it often comes across as cynical manipulation and intentional distortion of the truth.

From past experience, we know that consolidated absentee ownership reduces competition,

threatens media localism and harms information diversity. For example, when the digital

television transition modified the transmission systems for local TV broadcasters, coverage

in large swaths of Humboldt County was significantly reduced.

While Bonten has made substantial investments in local origination, Sinclair has a

reputation for requiring their owned affiliate stations to air non-local editorial content

during local newscasts. This “must air” practice reduces local origination of news and

information programs that address controversial issues of public importance. To become a

trusted local broadcaster, your policies need to provide reasonable opportunities for local

and opposing views to be expressed.

Since we would like to give you the benefit of the doubt as a new player in town, we have

developed a short list of suggested actions that would help to demonstrate your

commitment to becoming a responsible provider of high-quality information:

● Ensure Localism with meaningful investments in local news and information

programming to support public interests of local and tribal jurisdictions:

○ Station broadcasts should identify “must air” non-local content on-screen.

○ Provide equal airtime for local editorial content expressing opposing views.

○ Ensure that Spanish language channel(s) include equivalent local program

origination as other channels, and that Tribes have in-language

programming available on-air.

● Promote Universal Access with investments in new infrastructure for our least

served people and places:

○ Install and maintain additional translator/repeater facilities to ensure full

multi-casting coverage over the entire Designated Market Area served.

● Transparency and accountability to local jurisdictions through community-based

participation in local programming:

○ Maintain public files, including annual reports on compliance with

contractual promises available at every local library location.

○ Dedicate multi-cast channel(s) programmed entirely with locally originated

non-commercial content from local jurisdictions. (Note: This could be

accomplished in coordination with Public-Education- Government access

community media available now through the Counties, Cities and Tribes


While we would love to see all of the above actions incorporated into Sinclair’s local

operations, we don’t hold out much hope that these issues will be addressed. After all,

we’re just one small piece of a growing monopoly, and there is lots of money to be made

through media manipulation and control. Still, we promise to do everything in our power

to make sure that you deliver services that meet local needs and community interests.

The North Coast is a very special place to its residents, and we sincerely hope you will

thoughtfully consider these and other ways that we can work together to develop and

support community-based media. Think of this as a golden opportunity to improve your

reputation and become a trusted and reliable source of news across the Redwood Coast


Welcome to Humboldt County, and rest assured that we will be watching closely and

working tirelessly to help keep you accountable to the high standards of our community.

That’s one piece of local news you can definitely count on.


Access Humboldt


Access Humboldt is a non-profit community media organization managing local cable
franchise benefits on behalf of the County of Humboldt, California, and the Cities of
Eureka, Arcata, Fortuna, Rio Dell, Ferndale and Blue Lake. For more information, visit To read more about the Sinclair-Bonten deal, visit

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For more information contact: Sean Taketa McLaughlin e:, c: 707-616-2381