Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

John Oliver addresses local TV news and guess who pops up again?

This was posted Monday, July 3, 2017 by Rodney Ho/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Last year, John Oliver addressed the plight of newspapers. Last night, the HBO host delved into the wild and woolly world of local TV news.

He noted that some of his own investigative pieces used the crux of local news stories such as  Brendan Keefe's 911 series last year on 11Alive. (Yes, that's the reporter who recently picked up 11 Southeast Emmys to add on to his 66 previous ones.) That's the good stuff.

But Oliver had other fish to fry this time around. He chose to delve into Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns more than 170 stations with news operations.

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The company forces its local stations to run politically conservative commentaries by its vice president of news Scott Livingston and Boris Epshteyn a former Trump advisor. It also created a "Terrorism News Alert" desk segment that aims to stoke fears about terrorism on a daily basis, whether there's any tangible terrorism news or not. (The New York Times did a piece back in May about Sinclair.)

The company is in the midst of acquiring Tribune Broadcasting, which owns 42 local TV stations reaching 50 million households in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Houston. (Reaching, by the way, does not mean actually viewed by 5o million households.)

Combined, the stations would reach 70 percent of the broadcast market. The merger is still pending but likely to move forward.

Oliver's point is that unlike Fox News, which wears its conservative bonafides on its sleeve, Sinclair is doing so in a less obvious fashion. (Sinclair's Livingston gave the New York Times a similar argument Fox News has had in the past: “We work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle. I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center, and we work very hard to be in the center.”

Sinclair, by the way, does not own any TV stations in Atlanta. Neither does Tribune. Locally, Tegna owns the NBC affiliate 11Alive and WATL-TV Meredith owns WGCL-TV, the CBS affiliate, and Peachtree TV (WPCH-TV). CBS owns WUPA-TV (the CW affiliate). Fox owns Fox 5 (WAGA). And Cox owns WSB-TV, the ABC affiliate.

The funnier piece from Sunday night was about presidential wax figures and William G. Harding, a piece that has far more views on YouTube than the local news piece. Oliver managed to draw four Academy Award nominees to star in this fake trailer of a fake movie: Lauren Linney, James Cromwell, Anna Kendrick and Michael McKean:

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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