Last month, Berkshire County viewers settled down to watch Albany's WRGB, Channel 6 for the local evening news, which often features fires, crimes and spectacular car collisions punctuated by traffic jams, weather and sports. What they didn't expect, and may not have even noticed, was a prepared politically-motivated screed delivered by two local anchors who read from a script without identifying it as opinion, not straight news, or revealing the fact that it had come from the station's owners, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The anchors were not alone, as almost 200 of their colleagues were required to read exactly the same words in markets around the country. Among the ringing phrases parroted by Sinclair anchors in stations that reach one-third of the homes in the U.S. was this: "Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. And this is extremely dangerous to our democracy." The irony of this decidedly opinionated statement which echoed President Trump's self-serving complaints about the "fake news media" was later dramatized by a montage put together by the website Deadspin. In it, dozens of Sinclair anchors in footage captured from their local broadcasts are reading the message in Orwellian unison.

Thanks to the First Amendment, the owners of a television station are free to say anything they want to (as long as they adhere to FCC broadcast standards of decency). In this case, however, Sinclair has abused its responsibility as a disseminator of news; the stations it owns failed to identify the script as opinion or differentiate it from the usual evening menu in any way. It is particularly disturbing that this should happen at WRGB, one of the oldest TV stations in the country and one of the first powerful enough to reach Berkshire audiences.

Some 46 percent of Americans say they get their news mostly from television. Moreover, more of them trust their local news anchor than national figures, which makes the misuse of these local anchors as propaganda shills all the more egregious. In response to those who wonder why they didn't just quit for ethical reasons if they were so repulsed by the task (as we have learned from media reports after the fact), TV anchor jobs are hard come by, and just like anyone else, on-air talent has mortgages to pay and kids to put through college.

Sinclair's blatant attempt to manipulate public opinion and to cast a shadow on the professional efforts of other news outlets that do not share its right-wing political bias. Behind the scenes, Sinclair also seeks to buy up Tribune Media and its stations, which would give it a combined reach to three out of every four American homes. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is under investigation by his own inspector general for his ties to Sinclair, and his attempts to promote rule changes that would enable the acquisition.

The example of Laura Ingraham of Fox News and David Hogg, a survivor of the Douglas High School tragedy, has shown us the most effective way to combat this irresponsible and, frankly, antidemocratic assault on our airwaves: a boycott of advertisers. After she made denigrating and undeserved comments about Mr. Hogg, he called upon his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to boycott Ms. Ingraham's sponsors, and many of them bolted her program out of fear. A mea culpa from Ms. Ingraham was forthcoming within hours.

We suggest the same treatment for sponsors of WRGB and every other Sinclair station until they acknowledge the error of their ways — this time in a clearly-labeled editorial comment. If we don't act now (and continue to do so), we face the future specter of an information landscape the Founding Fathers never envisioned: a "free" press wholly owned by a handful of conglomerate with their own corporate agendas.