In an effort to retain Hunt Valley-based conservative-leaning TV news conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group, Baltimore County lawmakers have endorsed a state loan of $1.3 million–and offered up an additional $130,000 of the county’s money—to help the corporation expand and hire more workers for its Hunt Valley headquarters.
The Baltimore County Council last night unanimously approved a resolution supporting the $1.3 million conditional loan for Sinclair from the Maryland Department of Commerce. In addition, the county agreed to match 10 percent of the loan, per state policy with such financing.
There’s a solid chance Sinclair won’t be on the hook to repay that money. The combined $1.43 million in financing will be forgiven in 10 years, so long as the company fulfills an agreement to employ 700 workers by the end of 2023 and retains those positions through 2028. At present, Sinclair employs 333 workers in Hunt Valley, according to council notes.
The money is “to assist with the retention and expansion of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Inc.’s corporate headquarters,” according to a fiscal note Sinclair. The operator of nearly 200 TV news stations (and soon to be 233, pending federal approval of an acquisition of Tribune Media’s TV stations) plans to spend $12 million to expand its buildings and consolidate operations into its existing space.
While Sinclair produces local news across the country, the company has made national headlines for its controversial conservative-leaning coverage, including must-run commentary from the likes of Mark Hyman and Boris Epshteyn. (Full disclosure: The author is a former employee of Sinclair Broadcast Group, having worked at Fox 45.)
Here in Baltimore, the company has launched an ongoing special investigation of the city school system dubbed “Project Baltimore,” running dozens of stories about low state test scores, reading and math proficiency at individual schools, parents who are angry with their children’s teachers or school administrators and more. As the Baltimore Beat noted, the coverage brings a right-wing lens to covering a city public system as “broken” and in need in saving, and some have complained “Project Baltimore” stories endorse school privatization.
Sinclair has sued City Schools in an attempt to get administrators to share an internal report on an investigation of alleged grade-changing by a teacher; the school system has argued the documents are protected by state law, and has accused Sinclair of pursuing “sensationalism” in its coverage.
At last night’s council hearing, lawmakers noted the company’s leanings before all seven of them approved the loan. One council member, unidentifiable on video, drew laughter after sighing audibly upon the mention of Sinclair’s name.
Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, asked his colleagues if any wished to comment on the proposal to offer “$1.3 million for Sinclair Broadcasting to spread propaganda throughout the country.”
Councilman Wade Kach, a Republican, responded, “It’s gonna bring  high-paying jobs to Hunt Valley, to Baltimore County. When you think of the tax revenue and everything else, this is a win-win for everyone.”
“I’m gonna agree with you that 367 jobs is good, and that is good news,” Jones responded. “And I’m sure the families that they will feed, the kids that will be fed, won’t hear what message they are spreading.”
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