John Oliver looked at the troubling conservative takeover of unbiased local news broadcasts on Last Week Tonight.
"Our main story tonight concerns the potential problems in corporate consolidation of local news, don't you dare change the channel," Oliver warned.
"Sinclair [Broadcast Group] may be the most influential media company that you've never heard of: Not only are they the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, they could soon get ever bigger," Oliver said, referring to Sinclair's $4 billion acquisition of Tribune Media's 42 local stations.
Last Week Tonight discovered that when you combine the most watched nightly newscasts on Sinclair/Tribune stations in their largest market, the average total viewership is 2.2 million households, which easily trumps any nightly news shows on Fox News.
Oliver's issue with Sinclair is that they feed their stations conservative-leaning opinion segments, including one hosted by noted lying Trump associate Boris Epshteyn.
"If the opinions were confined just to the commentary and the ad breaks, that would be one thing," Oliver said. "But Sinclair can sometimes dictate the content of the local newscast as well, and in contrast with Fox News – a basically conservative outlet where you know what you're getting – with Sinclair, they're injecting Fox-worthy content into the mouths of your local news anchors."
Oliver showed a montage of Sinclair-owned newscasts reading a company-issued script in defense of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Often, these scripts and segments – including Epshteyn and the fearmongering "Terrorist Alert Desk" – are "must-runs" that Sinclair demands make it to the broadcast.
Some of the Sinclair stations are rebelling against their parent company, like Seattle's KOMO, who air the more controversial "must-runs" in the 4 a.m. hour. However, the Tribune merger threatens to spread the company's agenda even further into more markets.
Last Week Tonight then aired a "must-run" – starring The Sopranos' Steve Schirippa – that Tribune companies can broadcast to warn their viewers of the impending Sinclair takeover. "If this becomes a Sinclair station, good luck with that shit," the actor says.