Sinclair to simulcast ‘The National Desk’ in place of local news in several markets

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Sinclair Broadcast Group is cutting local news production at some of its stations.

WNWO in Toledo, Ohio, KTVL in Medford, Oregon, KPTH in Sioux City, Iowa, WGFL in Gainesville, Florida, and KPTM in Omaha, Nebraska, are all affected.

Within the next few weeks, the stations will replace their local newscasts with a simulcast of “The National Desk.”

Sinclair says the stations will be able to produce local cut-ins, though it did not indicate which stations will offer them or how such production would be handled.

The company is framing the move as a way to ensure financial stability at the stations, though it did not provide any insight into if local news production at the affected stations was profitable or how much will be saved with the change.

Many TV outlets have reported upticks in revenue thanks to ad revenue generated from the 2022 midterm elections, but larger economic concerns have already led to significant layoffs at other major media organizations.

Job cuts have already started and a source told The Desk, which is not connected with “The National Desk,” that more closures are likely to come.

Sinclair previously attempted to cut its local news production costs from 2002 to 2006 through a concept called “NewsCentral,” which is not associated with CNN’s recently launched program of a similar name.

This concept involved portions of “local” newscasts being produced at a centralized production hub, pieced together with locally-produced segments.

NewsCentral faced criticism for cutting back on local journalism as well as for airing right-leaning commentary segments during the national portions.

In 2018, Sinclair faced criticism for its so-called “hostage video” promo that featured local talent each reading from nearly identical scripts that many saw as being aligned with Donald Trump’s overall attacks on the media.

The move to simulcast “The National Desk” is already facing criticism from media watchers for putting a dent in local news production and voices.

In order to keep licenses from the FCC, local TV stations have to broadly demonstrate that they provide public services to the communities in which they are licensed.

The definition of those services can be broad, but local newscasts are generally seen as an important part of that mission. Other components can include airing weather warnings, community involvement and airing PSAs for local organizations.

Other stations have had their license renewals challenged for allegedly not providing enough public service to local communities, though these attempts are largely unsuccessful. Some of these campaigns accused stations licensed to a smaller city outside a major metropolitan area of not covering news in that smaller locale.