The conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcasting has been in the news the past few days as many of their stations across the nation ran identical propaganda scripts. Sinclair currently owns six Iowa TV stations and they are attempting to acquire two more.
Both WHO-TV, the NBC affiliate in Des Moines, and WQAD, the ABC affiliate serving Davenport, are owned by the Tribune Company. Sinclair is attempting to get FCC approval to acquire the Tribune Company, which would give them ownership of WHO and WQAD as well. This is bad news for the independence of Iowa Media markets.
Here’s where Des Moines based Meredith enters the picture. In order to get FCC approval to buy the Tribune Company’s 42 additional stations, Sinclair must divest themselves of some of the Tribune stations where they currently own one station. In Des Moines where Sinclair already owns the KDSM station, they will need to unload either WHO or KDSM.
Meredith has made it clear they are interested in buying some of the stations Sinclair must sell. In early March, Meredith executive chairman Steve Lacy said he would ask the Meredith Board to approve buying some of the Sinclair stations.
Here’s where it gets more interesting. WHO would appear to be a far greater asset than KDSM. If Sinclair must sell one of these two stations, it would seem they would prefer to own WHO rather than KDSM.
Meredith did give a clue as to which one of the two stations they want. They made it clear they won’t take the Sinclair throwaways. Meredith’s Lacy said he will choose the one he wants to buy.
We’re going to bid for what we want as opposed to what they (Sinclair) say they want to sell,” said Lacy.
That certainly sounds like a war for WHO. Sinclair has close ties to the Trump Administration and has a far right agenda as we described in a May, 2017 article, ”Right Wing Media Giant Acquires Key TV Stations.”
One of Des Moines’ TV stations will be owned by Sinclair. Either they keep KDSM or they sell it and take WHO. It’s obvious Sinclair intends to be a biased cheerleader for the Trump Administration and they plan to demand a conservative propaganda agenda from their local stations. KDSM seems like it would be a less effective propaganda tool for the Trump Administration since it is already a FOX station.
There’s one other consideration that deserves more scrutiny. Meredith might seem like a better owner for WHO. One might assume a local owner like Meredith with a long respected media history would guarantee that WHO would maintain it’s journalistic independence. However, Meredith’s recent $2.8 billion purchase of Time Magazine couldn’t have been accomplished without the investment of $650 million by the Koch Brothers.
Both Meredith and the Koch Brothers claim that the Kochs won’t exercise any editorial control over Meredith’s media holdings. Others suggest the Kochs are moving to buy media giants in order to expand their conservative and libertarian messages. Obviously the Kochs have successfully used their money to shape and drive their political views by funding conservative Republican candidates. It appears the Kochs are on the same page with Sinclair in attempting to shape their political agendas by manipulating the news.
A close longtime associate and donor to the Koch’s causes, Stanley Hubbard, confirmed that the Kochs have a political agenda in buying up media outlets.
“Knowing the Kochs, I think they’d have to see it as a business that could at the same time further their political interests,” said Hubbard.
These are the ugly facts underlying conservative groups buying up local TV outlets. If there’s any doubt about the danger to the free press, just look at talk radio. We have seen the success of conservative groups buying up local radio stations and turning them into right-wing echo chambers. Rush Limbaugh is the poster child for the loss of independent radio broadcasting. Limbaugh led the march in transforming radio broadcasting into the epidemic spread of toxic shock-jock radio.
Conceivably, Iowans in central Iowa may end up with a choice between two TV stations controlled by either Sinclair or have potential influence from the Kochs. Sinclair is a known quantity; they have made their conservative propaganda agenda very clear. Meredith is an unknown, but the large Koch ownership raises serious suspicions. It should be of great concern to Iowans that uber-rich conservative groups are buying up control of our local TV outlets.
by Rick Smith