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What is Sinclair Broadcast Group, and why is it in the news?

Deadspin published a montage this weekend of Sinclair anchors at stations across the country reading a centrally scripted message about fake news, and it’s gone viral. (CNN video)

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the conservative-leaning, Hunt Valley-based television news conglomerate, made waves recently when it distributed a script to local anchors at all its stations admonishing the media for sharing unverified, fake news — a move some viewed as propaganda in President Donald Trump’s ongoing war on unflattering coverage.

For those who need a refresher: What is Sinclair, anyway?

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The company, founded by Julian Sinclair Smith, started as a single radio station in Baltimore and moved into television with the creation of WBFF Fox45 in 1971. It consolidated its operations in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, in the 1980s, went public in 1995 — and has since grown into a nearly 200-station local media behemoth.

Some quick facts:

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» The company owns 193 television stations and 614 channels across 89 U.S. markets.

» Its pending $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media — The TV side of former Baltimore Sun parent company Tribune Co. — could increase that number to 233.

» That move could double the size of the Hunt Valley operation, but executives said last fall that the company is staying put. Sinclair said it plans to invest $12 million to accommodate an expansion that could double the number of employees to 700 by 2024.

A viral YouTube video of dozens of local TV anchors reading the same scripted message to viewers has inflamed a debate about media bias in the era of President

» As part of its deal to keep and expand its headquarters in Hunt Valley, Sinclair received $1.43 million in conditional loans from the state ($1.3 million) and Baltimore County ($130,000). The loans will be converted to grants if Sinclair meets targets for job creation.

» If the deal is approved by the Federal Communications Commission, Sinclair would become the largest broadcaster in the country, with stations in the top 10 markets and 72 percent of markets overall.

» Sinclair said in February that it expects to finalize the merger with Tribune Media in the second quarter.

» Sinclair operates two stations in the Baltimore area: WBFF Fox45 and WNUV (the local CW affiliate).

» Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, said in an email to The Sun the goal of the anchor script was to reiterate Sinclair’s “commitment to reporting facts.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group expects to finalize its proposed $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media in the second quarter, the Hunt Valley TV station owner said Wednesday.

“The stories we are referencing in this promo are the unsubstantiated ones (i.e. fake/false) like ‘Pope Endorses Trump’ which move quickly across social media and result in an ill-informed public.”

Livingston later released a statement on PR Newswire about the promos. You can read that here.

» President Donald Trump has twice tweeted in support of Sinclair over the past week.

Baltimore Sun reporters Lorraine Mirabella and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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