Conventions Need to Vet Their Sponsors Better

I’m going to go on a bit of a tear here, a rant that’s ranty because I’ve been suppressing it for too long.  I’ve also been hesitant to raise it because I want the focus to be on the problem, not the incident that brought this to my attention and also, because in this day and age, we’ve got a ton of things to be concerned about that far out-weigh this particular issue.

Which brings up a point I want to make.  There are thousands of issues facing us these days – some are even existential in nature – all of them competing for our attention – from serious threats to our national election system, wars looming on the horizon, the rise in anti-this, that or the other (the thises, thats and others deeply affecting some people’s lives) and good people everywhere are feeling overwhelmed and often voicing an opinion that some issue must take precedent over another in competing for their attention.

We need to remind ourselves – ALL of them are worthy of attention and ALL of them need to be addressed.  When you’re responsible for cleaning up after the shit hits the fan, you don’t clean just one wall – you knuckle down and clean everything.  Sure, you may have to prioritize, but you don’t ignore them.  Where we don’t want to be is that place where we throw up our hands, declare that life has become too overwhelming and help things get worse by ignoring it all.

That said, I want to address the subject of accepting sponsorships and support from corporate entities and how, in doing so, Fandom may be giving aide and comfort to an entity that is most decidedly unfannish in its activities.

Recently I attended a convention (a great event that I enjoyed) that was sponsored or supported in some fashion by the cable channel COMET TV.

Comet is not available in all markets, but it has been referenced by those who can watch it as the kind of science fiction channel that SYFY coulda, shoulda been.  There’s no “pro” wrestling, no “paranormal” crap, just good straight SF fare with shows like The Outer Limits, Babylon 5, Hammer films, B-movies, etc.

But it’s not the content that is at issue with Comet TV, it’s the channel’s corporate owners.

Comet is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a company that has recently become the largest owner of local stations in the US.

You may have heard SBG referenced in the press a few months ago when they were seeking approval from the FCC to purchase the Tribune network of stations.  Yes, the size the network would become was an issue, but the main problem was how Sinclair corporate was using their local news stations.  I saw one reference that identified them as “Fox on Steroids”.  The primary objections were to corporate’s “Must Run” content, sent out to each of their news stations, content of a decidedly right-wing bias that caused local news anchors to become political shills, or risk being fired.

I’ve no doubt that President Trump’s recent call for a “national news network” had Sinclair Broadcasting Group in mind – the owners were probably whispering in his ear.

It really bothers me to have inadvertently and unintentionally supported these efforts by attending a convention sponsored by one of their properties.  I was seriously thinking of talking to the Chair about it, but I knew from my own prior experiences with sponsorships that little to nothing could be done at the convention.  Nor do I think that it was the convention’s deliberate intention to support what SBG has come to stand for;  most likely some clever and eager fan thought that getting a science fiction television channel to support the con was a good match and didn’t bother to take a look at who owned the channel.

Instead I’m raising it now.  Below, I’ve linked to various bits and pieces of information about SBG – in particular detailed coverage from a segment of the Lastweek Tonight with John Oliver show, as well as a video presentation of news anchors all reading the same scripted propaganda from corporate.  It’s a powerful display of exactly why we should all have nothing to do with anything related to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, including Comet TV, even if it is better “sci-fi” TV than SyFy.

I strongly urge and request that those responsible for arranging convention promotional support to do a little better in deep checking their potential partners in future.  Had I known about the Comet TV sponsorship prior to attending the convention, I’d not have done so.  I’d also have been urging others not to attend while at the same time suggesting to the convention that it seek support elsewhere.  It would have pained me to do so – that particular convention is an old favorite I have quite an extensive history with.  But I don’t support bullies or those who try to pervert the news into political talking points, supporting an agenda that is anathema to me.

On the politics side of Sinclair’s propaganda, YMMV.  However, this is more an affront to the independence and freedom of journalists to provide the kind of unbiased reporting we’d like to have than it is about the specific political messaging.  You want your message to go out over your network – run an ad, don’t corrupt local journalism.

So, unfortunately, “Just Say No to Comet TV” (and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group).

John Oliver on SBG.

The “mashup” – anchors repeating “Must Run” segment

Deadspin’s coverage

SBG is ruthless in handling dissent – Weatherman fired

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