One team of researchers found evidence of what they call the “Sinclair Effect,” “whereby Sinclair-owned affiliate stories exhibited more cable news-style elements.” They indicated that Sinclair stations produced more stories with dramatic elements, commentary, and partisan sources.
Assistant professors at the University of North Carolina, Kylah J. Hedding, Jesse Abdenour, Justin C. Blakenship and a Ph.D. student from the University of Illinois conducted the study.
The team examined content from six local TV news stations in three areas: Seattle, Tulsa and South Bend, Ind. Researchers selected two stations per market, one Sinclair station (KOMO, KTUL, WSBT) and another non-Sinclair station (KING, KOTV, WNDU). The quantitative content analysis study examined a total of 14 days of content from the six stations, selecting different days of the week over a period of three months (March to May) in 2018.
The study shows that Sinclair stations were more likely to cover government as well as political stories than non-Sinclair stations. Sinclair stations were more likely to use government representatives, government agencies and Trump administration officials as their main news source for political stories rather than non-Sinclair stations. Sinclair stations attributed more unknown sources than non-Sinclair.
Hedding, K. J., Miller, K. C., Abdenour, J., & Blankenship, J. C. (2019). The Sinclair Effect: Comparing Ownership Influences on Bias in Local TV News Content. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 63(3), 474-493.