Don’t Stop Speaking Out Against Sinclair!

As Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post on
Wednesday, Sinclair Broadcast Group backed away from its plan to
carry a film attacking John Kerry’s Vietnam War record, saying it
would air only portions of the movie in an hour-long ‘news special’
scheduled for Friday, dubbed A POW Story: Politics, Pressure
and the Media
. Sinclair executives even went so far as to say
that they never intended to show the anti-Kerry documentary,
Stolen Honor, in its entirety — even though Sinclair
commentator and vice president Mark Hyman had earlier told the
newspaper the movie would air unless the Massachusetts senator
agreed to do an interview.

The flap is far from over, though. That Sinclair even considered
running the documentary, begs a number of crucial questions about
media corporations, the pubic airwaves and politics. That they are
still going to air a program that features portions of Stolen
is still troubling to progressives, who are urging that
citizens continue to make noise about the network, which has become
increasingly partisan.

In the mass media’s echo chamber, the accepted version of events
is that Sinclair bowed to financial pressure; including falling
stock prices and the specter of losing skittish advertisers. And
AlterNet‘s Paul Schmelzer contends that this financial
pressure is a direct result of grassroots organizing,. But New York
University Professor Jay Rosen doesn’t think it’s that simple. In
his blog Pressthink, Rosen argues that something more
sinister has been guiding the company’s decisions in the past
several weeks, including its shrewd, last-minute decision to switch
their strategy — namely, the desire to become a legitimate,
FOX-like media empire.

What’s more, according to Rosen and the journalists at Free
, that such a media company has such aspirations could
only have happened in this era of deregulation. For the most part,
this deregulation has happened behind the scenes, through legal
channels not worthy of major media headlines. Sinclair, for
example, has a habit of swallowing up local news stations — often
purchasing two competing stations in the same city — and replacing
local news staff with programming from corporate headquarters,
according to the producers of Sinclair and the Public Airwaves:
A History of Abuse
, a special report written for As a result, an executive can preempt
regular news programs to air a partisan documentary with no
commercial breaks, all the while claiming it is not partisan at
all. As Jon Leiberman, Sinclair’s Washington Bureau Chief, who was
fired for speaking out about his company’s behavior in the
Baltimore Sun, said Monday on CNN: ‘We haven’t done an
hour-long special on anything else . . . and all of a sudden, two
weeks before the election, we’re doing an hour-long special based
on this anti-Kerry documentary.’

It’s a good guess that in the coming weeks, Leiberman’s words,
and his firing, will be forgotten. Especially now that Sinclair has
chosen to run an hour long news show in place of Stolen
— seemingly a concession. This is unfortunate, since
there’s no doubt Sinclair’s show will be bias and its programming
before and after will continue to reflect its ownership’s political

According to Media Matters for America, an organization
that is threatening Sinclair with a shareholder lawsuit, an
existing FCC rule has a provision for offering ‘equal time’ to
candidates. Perhaps this clause was behind Sinclair’s invitation to
Kerry to respond to the documentary, an invitation Rosen thinks
Kerry should have accepted. (Others have argued that if Kerry were
to go on air to respond to the documentary, his presence would have
served only to legitimize the documentary as a credible, alternate
version of events.)

Whatever the case, the strongest legal arguments against
Sinclair’s overall behavior are being put forth by the Free
, Media Matters for America, and others — that
Sinclair receives a license from the government to use public
airwaves in the public interest, rather than in the
interest of executives and shareholders. This is the thrust of the
Citizen Complaint to the FCC written by the

National Organization for Women
, the
Citizens for Media Literacy
of North Carolina

Common Cause’s letter writing campaign
, and
Concerts for Change’s online

The Free Press has compiled the most comprehensive
index of
and action-based resources surrounding Sinclair
. On the site
you can find vital information: whether you live in a state where a
Sinclair license is up for renewal, affiliate stations in your
area, and access to all petitions. Media Matters offers a list of
mutual and
pension funds that invest in Sinclair
. Meanwhile, the Daily
has created a

Sinclair Resource Center
, offering an encyclopedic volume of
information on the Sinclair group and Disinfopedia has an

entry on Carleton Sherwood
, the producer of the

Make your voice heard now; even if the documentary doesn’t air,
corporate consolidation of media, the real ailment behind the
symptom, continues.

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