Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. (SBG) is a publicly-traded American telecommunications conglomerate that is controlled by the family of company founder Julian Sinclair Smith. Headquartered in the Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley, Maryland, the company is the second-largest television station operator in the United States by a number of stations (after Nexstar Media Group), owning or operating a total of 193 stations across the country in over 100 markets (covering 40% of American households), many of which are located in the South and Midwest, and is the largest owner of stations affiliated with Fox, ABC, and The CW. Sinclair also owns four digital multicast networks (Comet, Charge!, Stadium, and TBD), sports-oriented cable networks (Tennis Channel and Fox Sports Networks), and streaming service (Stirr), and owns or operates four radio stations in the Pacific Northwest. Among other non-broadcast properties, Sinclair also owns the professional wrestling promotion Ring of Honor and its streaming service Honor Club.
Sinclair has faced scrutiny from some media critics, as well as some of its station employees, for the conservative slant of their stations’ news reporting and other programming decisions, and how the company’s rapid growth has aided the airing of content that supports these views. Sinclair has also faced criticism over business practices that circumvent concentration of media ownership regulations, particularly the use of local marketing agreements, accusations that the company had been currying favor with the Trump administration in order to loosen these rules and about its management lacking diversity and being totally controlled by a single-family. Critics including former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather have described Sinclair’s practices as being “an assault on our democracy” by disseminating what they perceive to be Orwellian-like propaganda to its local stations.
The company’s roots date back to 1958, when Julian Sinclair Smith, an electrical engineer, along with a group of shareholders, formed the Commercial Radio Institute, a broadcasting trade school in Baltimore, Maryland. Commercial Radio Institute later applied to build an FM radio station and construction permit was granted the following year, and WFMM-FM (now WPOC) signed on the air in February 1960.
By 1967, Smith (as Chesapeake Engineering Placement Service) had applied for and was granted, a construction permit for UHF channel 45 in Baltimore.
Chesapeake Television Corporation
Chesapeake Engineering Placement Service changed its name to Chesapeake Television Corporation and launched its founding television station property, WBFF (channel 45) in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 11, 1971. The Commercial Radio Institute, by then a division of Chesapeake Television Corporation, later founded WPTT (channel 22, now WPNT) in Pittsburgh, in 1978; and WTTE (channel 28) in Columbus, Ohio, in 1984. All three stations originally were independents, though WBFF and WTTE became charter affiliates of the Fox Broadcasting Company at its launch in 1986, while the Fox affiliation in Pittsburgh went to higher-rated WPGH-TV, which would later be purchased by Sinclair in 1990.
Sinclair had experimented with using a centralized news organization called News Central that provided prepackaged news segments for distribution to several of the group’s stations. These segments were integrated into programming during local news broadcasts. Mark E. Hyman, a high-ranking executive at Sinclair, also created “The Point”, a series of conservative editorial segments that were broadcast on stations operated by the group that maintains news departments.
On May 21, 2011, it was announced that Sinclair had purchased the professional wrestling promotion Ring of Honor (ROH). As part of the purchase, the promotion began to produce a weekly program, Ring of Honor Wrestling, to air on Sinclair’s stations and in syndication. It was also, for a time, aired by Destination America.
In October 2015, Sinclair premiered Full Measure, a syndicated public affairs program hosted by Sharyl Attkisson. On July 1, 2017, Sinclair launched a new daily morning kids’ TV block called KidsClick, partnering with This TV. The block was moved to TBD in 2018 and was eventually discontinued 8 months later.
2012 pre-election special
On November 5, 2012, six Sinclair stations in swing states aired a special focusing on issues surrounding the presidential election occurring the next day, such as the Libyan civil war and health care reform; the special consisted of a series of segments which were presented by the local anchors at each station. While the scheduling of the special was at the discretion of each station, Columbus, Ohio ABC affiliate WSYX pre-empted both ABC World News and Nightline to air it. The special was met with controversy for showing a bias against Obama and focusing little on Republican candidate Mitt Romney, as opposed to showcasing both candidates equally. A Sinclair staff member disputed these claims, stating that “no one is disputing the facts of the stories that aired in the special,” and that its decision on which markets to air the special was influenced by their “news value” and resonation with the public.