Around 60 protesters gathered near the highway in front of WJAR/Channel 10 Offices yesterday to target mandated right-wing content on WJAR. Protesters and organizers rallied against WJAR’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which requires the channel air pro-Trump stories in local news broadcasts nine times a week. Kent County Huddle, a branch of The Women’s March RI, organized the rally.
According to Patricia Ricci, a member of the Kent County Huddle and spokesperson for the event, the purpose of the protest was to educate and warn watchers of WJAR of its biases.
“It’s a threat to the integrity of our nation,” Ricci said. “And people, when they’re looking at their local stations, they tend to believe what they hear because they talk about the community and what’s going on locally, and this is being bastardized by Trump propagandists.”
Protestors were especially concerned about new appointments to the Federal Communications Commision and plans for Sinclair Broadcast group to merge with Tribune Media, another broadcast syndication company.
“That would mean that one broadcasting company would own close to 72 percent of broadcasting in the United States,” Ricci said. “We are making calls to the FCC to try to have people band together to fight this nationally.”
Gail Harvey, a member of the RI Organization of Women, was similarly concerned about the monopolization of the broadcasting industry, especially in local news.
“In national news, we have a choice. If we want to watch MSNBC, NBC, Fox News whatever, we have that choice,” Harvey says. “When it is local, we have to put our faith in our local news that we’re getting true stories.”
Many of the protesters, who were long-time watchers of Channel 10, were concerned about the level of trust many Rhode Islanders put into Channel 10 news anchors.
“These anchors are people that when they speak I know that I can trust them, so when what they’re saying is something that’s not even what they want to tell us about — that’s dictated to them — then they’re [Sinclair Broadcast Group] using that level of trust that Rhode Islanders have in those anchors to their advantage to push propaganda,” said Rachel Jarosz, a member of Indivisible RI..
According to Deb Cole, an organizer of the protest, today’s rally was just a kick off protest. While future plans have not been formulated yet, Cole plans to have other “pop-up protests” in the near future nearby workplaces of advertisers of WJAR.
This article was written by WBRU News reporter Alicia Mies.