Mark Neerman: “If you look at the words, there is nothing wrong with it…. It was only a promo.” However, he added: “When we do it again next time, we will probably give local stations more freedom to come up with the messaging.”
LAS VEGAS — The news director of Sinclair’s KSNV Las Vegas said the NBC affiliate felt the blowback from the viral Deadspin video, but much of it was apparently orchestrated by opponents of Sinclair’s pending merger with Tribune and the controversy was “already dying down.”
Following a BEA panel session Saturday in Las Vegas, Mark Neerman told this reporter that some viewers were “spooked” by the video montage that shows Sinclair anchors from around the country reading in unison the same corporate news promo.
Critics charged that the promo, with its swipe at other media, exposed the intention of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith to impose his conservative, pro-Trump agenda on Sinclair’s growing ranks of stations.
But Neerman didn’t see it that way. “If you look at the words, there is nothing wrong with it…. It was only a promo, for god’s sake,” he said.
“We had researched this exact copy with Magid and found that this copy really resonated. So, if you know that copy resonates, why don’t you use it?”
Neerman made no apology for the promo — “I believe in what we are doing — but said Sinclair may have learned a lesson. “When we do it again next time, we will probably give local stations more freedom to come up with the messaging.”
Judging from the many form emails, he said he felt the reaction to the promo was whipped up by those who want the FCC or the Justice Department to scuttle Sinclair’s merger with Tribune that will extend its reach to as much as 72% of the country and expand its portfolio to more than 220 stations.
“That’s not to say some of the criticism has not been from regular people,” he added.
The video sparked a debate at the station about journalistic ethics, he said. “There has been more talk about journalism than any of us can remember, and the realization of the importance of both sides of the story.”
He dismissed the notion that Sinclair is trying to replace local content with national content.
He said the national content is “miniscule” compared to the more than nine hours of local content that KSNV produces each day.
The only controversial content is the conservative commentary of Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn and it is clearly labeled as commentary, he said. “The rest is D.C. content like you’ll get from anyone else.”
Neerman also said he also OK with airing conservative commentary without counterbalancing liberal commentary, arguing that viewers get plenty of the liberal point of view from network programming.
“Look at Jimmy Kimmel, bashing the president right and left.”
During the panel session, which addressed the “Future of Local TV News,” Neerman was asked if Sinclair was threatened by the increasing demands of the networks for reverse comp — an ever bigger share of its retransmission consent revenue.
“That’s why scale is so important. You’ve seen with our company the recognition that for us to survive we have to be big.
“If you are not big …, you’re not going to be playing. It comes down to scale.”
Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2018 news here.