From the Portland Press Herald:
Marc McCutcheon of South Portland was watching WGME’s evening newscast as he has for half a century when something came on that shocked him.
In the midst of the local news, a taped commentary from President Trump’s former special assistant Boris Epshteyn appeared on the screen, trumpeting the administration’s position with what he thought selective use and abuse of facts.
McCutcheon, a small-business owner and political independent, describes the experience as “surreal,” “extremely jarring” and “so out of place with the friendly, local broadcast from news people I’ve come to trust over the years.” There was no rebuttal, no context, no alternate point of view – a situation he found concerning.
WGME-TV (Channel 13) and WPFO-TV (Channel 23) each carry the segments nine times a week on orders from their owner, the Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the nation’s largest owner of local television stations and an aggressive, unabashed disseminator of conservative commentary supporting the Trump wing of the Republican Party.
The company has been in the national news regularly this year because the pro-Trump segments are appearing at the same time the company is awaiting approval from the Trump administration for it to purchase the 42 stations of the Tribune Media company, which will extend its reach to 72 percent of American households.
Epshteyn has been a Sinclair employee since April. His pieces are produced at Sinclair’s headquarters outside Baltimore and distributed to the company’s 173 local stations on a “must run” basis, along with conservative commentary from a former company executive, Mark Hyman, and nightly updates from their Terrorism Alert Desk, regardless of whether there was any terrorism that day to be alerted about. No segments present countervailing points of view.
[President and CEO of Free Press, a Washington-based group that opposes media consolidation Craig] Aaron says Sinclair has been ratcheting up its pro-Trump commentary in an effort to get special treatment from the administration, which in April lifted a rule on ownership concentration that would have prevented Sinclair from buying the Tribune stations.
“They are essentially gaming the system,” he says. “It’s even more nefarious given that Sinclair has been dedicated to boosting one party, and one wing of that party in particular, the Trump wing.”
Epshteyn, a 34-year-old Russia-born investment banker, is a friend and former Georgetown University classmate of the president’s son Eric Trump who ascended rapidly within Trump’s campaign.
Employees at Sinclair station KOMO in Seattle have put up mild resistance to Sinclair’s “must run” segments, airing some of them at obscure hours and complaining to their union about one such spot, an editorial by [Sinclair Broadcasting Vice President Scott] Livingston himself accusing the news media of running “fake news” and urging viewers to share “content concerns” with local stations with his office.
Last month some of them complained anonymously to Bloomberg Businessweek about having been issued blue L.L. Bean windbreakers to wear on-air when reporting from the field, rather than local rival REI. (“It’s like going to Paris and ordering California wine,” one complained.) But L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem says that was the result of an advertising promotion involving select media markets where the Freeport-based retailer sees promise for its products.
Of course, L.L. Bean. Remember? This is state and corporate sponsored propaganda, and it’s some scary shit. It’s not just Maine, kids, so be aware and if you watch local news, take it with a grain of salt.