Liberal Media. Yep.
October 9, 2004 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Ministry of Propaganda. Sinclair Broadcast Group, who last made headlines by refusing to air Nightline's reading of Americans killed in the Iraqi war because it was "contrary to public interest", have decided that Washington Times reporter Carlton Sherwood's anti-Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" is so vital to public interest that they are forcing every single one of their 62 station affiliates, 14 of which are in swing states, to preempt their primetime programming and air it less than two weeks before the election. Network sources claimed that following the airing, a "panel discussion" will be held, to which Kerry is invited, thus fulfilling SBG's commitment to fairness.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (35 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- Brandon Blatcher

This seems to amount to a free campaign infomercial on behalf of the Dubya campaign, doesn't it? Or will Sinclair also offer a rebuttal by showing Fahrenheit 9/11 (not bloody likely)?
posted by clevershark at 4:40 PM on October 9, 2004

I like the poll on the film's page. All possible choices nicely laid out...
posted by hoskala at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2004

Sinclair is going as far as labelling the anti-Kerry film airing as "news"

They can call it a duck if they want, that doesn't mean that it'll float :-) All I'm saying is, that "classification" doesn't pass the smell test.

In related news, Sinclair Broadcasting's political contributions are split 97%/3% between Republicans and Democrats. Not exactly surprising.
posted by clevershark at 5:11 PM on October 9, 2004

damn corporate hippies
posted by tiamat at 5:15 PM on October 9, 2004

the next ad from the bush campaign: jesus christ = wrong for america
posted by specialk420 at 6:02 PM on October 9, 2004

A lot of important points from this thread also apply here.

Here's something I posted before...

Federal Election Commission Regulations for Electioneering Communications

This brochure focuses on the rules pertaining to electioneering communications—television or radio communications that refer to a clearly identified federal candidate and are distributed to the relevant electorate within 60 days prior to the general election or 30 days prior to a primary.1 In general, these rules require that electioneering communications be financed using funds from sources permissible under the federal campaign finance law; but neither the funds raised nor those spent are subject to the law’s contribution limits.2 Once payments for electioneering communications exceed $10,000, the disbursements and the sources of the funds used must be disclosed within 24 hours.


An electioneering communication is any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that fulfills each of the following conditions:

1. The communication refers to a clearly identified candidate;
2. The communication is publicly distributed shortly before an election for the office that candidate is seeking; and
3. The communication is targeted to the relevant electorate (U.S. House and Senate candidates only).

In the previous thread we were dicussing a pro-George W broadcast... but I think these rules would apply to an anti-Kerry broadcast as well.
posted by Stuart_R at 6:20 PM on October 9, 2004

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.
10706 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
Phone: (410) 568-1500
Fax: (410) 568-1533
posted by specialk420 at 6:34 PM on October 9, 2004

From the FCC Rules on Political Broadcasting

Broadcasts by Candidates for Public Office. When a qualified candidate for public office has been permitted to use a station, the Communications Act requires the station to "afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office." The Act also states that the station "shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast" by the candidate. We do not consider either of the following two categories as a "use" that is covered by this rule:

An appearance by a legally qualified candidate on a bona fide newscast, interview or documentary (if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject covered by the documentary); or on-the-spot coverage of a bona fide news event (including political conventions and related incidental activities).

Political Editorials. Within 24 hours of airing an editorial where the station itself either supports or opposes a candidate for public office, it must transmit the following three things to the other qualified candidate(s) for the same office or to the candidate who was opposed in the editorial: (1) notification of the date and the time of the editorial; (2) a script or tape of the editorial; and (3) an offer of a reasonable opportunity for the candidate or a spokesperson for the candidate to respond on the air.

This sounds like a Political Editorial... and they need to offer a reasonable opportunity for the candidate or a spokesperson for the candidate to respond on the air.

They could pick from:

1) A televised speech from Kerry
2) This other documentary about Kerry: Going Upriver
3) Or something negative about the other candidate... like maybe this little movie...
posted by Stuart_R at 7:03 PM on October 9, 2004

For those without subscription:

Conservative TV Group to Air Anti-Kerry Film
    By Elizabeth Jensen
    The Los Angeles Times

    Saturday 09 October 2004
Sinclair, with reach into many of the nation's homes, will preempt prime-time shows. Experts call the move highly unusual.

    New York - The conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TV, is ordering its stations to preempt regular programming just days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film that attacks Sen. John F. Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War, network and station executives familiar with the plan said Friday.

    Sinclair's programming plan, communicated to executives in recent days and coming in the thick of a close and intense presidential race, is highly unusual even in a political season that has been marked by media controversies.

    Sinclair has told its stations - many of them in political swing states such as Ohio and Florida - to air "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," sources said. The film, funded by Pennsylvania veterans and produced by a veteran and former Washington Times reporter, features former POWs accusing Kerry - a decorated Navy veteran turned war protester - of worsening their ordeal by prolonging the war. Sinclair will preempt regular prime-time programming from the networks to show the film, which may be classified as news programming, according to TV executives familiar with the plan.

    Executives at Sinclair did not return calls seeking comment, but the Kerry campaign accused the company of pressuring its stations to influence the political process.

    "It's not the American way for powerful corporations to strong-arm local broadcasters to air lies promoting a political agenda," said David Wade, a spokesman for the Democratic nominee's campaign. "It's beyond yellow journalism; it's a smear bankrolled by Republican money, and I don't think Americans will stand for it."

    Sinclair stations are spread throughout the country, in major markets that include Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas; its only California station is in Sacramento. Fourteen of the 62 stations the company either owns or programs are in the key political swing states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the presidential election is being closely fought.

    Station and network sources said they have been told the Sinclair stations - which include affiliates of Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as WB and UPN - will be preempting regular programming for one hour between Oct. 21 and Oct. 24, depending on the city. The airing of "Stolen Honor" will be followed by a panel discussion, which Kerry will be asked to join, thus potentially satisfying fairness regulations, the sources said.

    Kerry campaign officials said they had been unaware of Sinclair's plans to air the film, and said Kerry had not received an invitation to appear.

    No one familiar with the plan was willing to criticize it publicly, some because they said they don't know all the details of what Sinclair plans for the panel that follows. But a number of people privately expressed outrage at the seemingly overt nature of the political attack, which comes during a tight election and at a time when the media are under assault as never before. Cable's Fox News Channel was attacked in the summer by a coalition of liberal groups for what they said were its efforts to boost Republicans; in recent weeks, CBS' Dan Rather has been criticized by conservatives, as well as some nonpartisan journalists, for a "60 Minutes" broadcast that used now-discredited documents in a report saying President Bush received favorable treatment when in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s.

    Democrats have for some time accused Sinclair, a publicly traded company based in Maryland, of a having a right-wing agenda.

    The company made headlines in April when it ordered seven of its stations not to air Ted Koppel's "Nightline" roll call of military dead in Iraq, deeming it a political statement "disguised as news content." Sen. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was among those who criticized Sinclair's decision not to air the "Nightline" program, which featured the names and pictures of more than 700 U.S. troops.

    Even before the "Nightline" controversy, Sinclair drew criticism because of the combination of its highly centralized news operations, which often include conservative commentary, and its almost exclusively Republican political giving. In the 2004 political cycle, Sinclair executives have given nearly $68,000 in political contributions, 97% to Republicans, ranking it 12th among top radio and TV station group contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.

    The upcoming "Stolen Honor" will probably bring fresh attention to Sinclair. "I can't think of a precedent of holding up programming to show a political documentary at a point where it would have the maximum effect on the vote," said Jay Rosen, chairman of New York University's journalism department. But the program will only be the latest in a string of politically charged media events in this campaign. Representatives of Michael Moore's anti-Bush "Fahrenheit 9/11," which has grossed $214 million worldwide, are in talks for a deal to make the film available on pay-per-view cable the night before the election. The Sundance Channel plans to air live clips Monday from the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" rock concert.

    Cable, however, doesn't have the reach of broadcast stations like Sinclair's, nor is it subject to the same federal regulations. Still, although broadcast stations are required to provide equal time to major candidates in an election campaign, the Sinclair move may not run afoul of those provisions if Kerry or a representative is offered time to respond. Moreover, several sources said Sinclair had told them it planned to classify the program as news, where the rules don't apply.

    Calling it news, however, poses its own problems, said Keith Woods, dean of the faculty at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla., that teaches professional ethics. "To air a documentary intended to provide a one-sided view of Kerry's record and call it news - it's like calling Michael Moore's movie news," he said, adding that the closer to an election that a controversial news report is aired, the "higher the bar has to go" in terms of fairness.

    Clearly, Sinclair's reach will bring a much wider audience to the film. The 42-minute film has only been available on DVD or for $4.99 through an Internet download, although fans had been mounting an Internet campaign to get it wider exposure.

    "Stolen Honor" was made by Carlton Sherwood, a Vietnam veteran and former reporter for the conservative Washington Times who is also the author of a book about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. On the website for the film, he tells viewers, "Intended or not, Lt. Kerry painted a depraved portrait of Vietnam veterans, literally creating the images of those who served in combat as deranged drug-addicted psychopaths, baby killers" that endured for 30 years in the popular culture.

    Sherwood did not return calls seeking comment.
posted by squirrel at 7:05 PM on October 9, 2004

Mr. Sherwood, the Reverend Moon has some revisions for you...

Sherwood's seedy journalistic ethics ^
posted by inksyndicate at 7:15 PM on October 9, 2004

the next ad from the bush campaign: jesus christ = wrong for america

I'm convinced!
posted by homunculus at 7:17 PM on October 9, 2004

Map and contact info for Sinclair Broadcasting local stations in case you want to give your local station managers a thumbs up or a thumbs down on this idea.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:38 PM on October 9, 2004

They're really getting desperate, aren't they?
posted by Zonker at 7:41 PM on October 9, 2004

Stop Sinclair

Boycott Sinclair Advertisers

And for what it's worth, Atrios has posted 1996 reports of the arrest of Sinclair's President/CEO for doing business with a prostitute in a company car in a seedy Baltimore neighborhood (where's John Waters when you need him?)
posted by gimonca at 8:06 PM on October 9, 2004

This has gotten surreal. And the problem is, the more surreal it gets, the less anybody can tell how freakin' surreal it is. What egregious, incredible betrayal of the public trust will Americans shrug away next?
posted by soyjoy at 9:14 PM on October 9, 2004

Maybe Sinclair will shove all its stations' regular programming aside to air the opinions of heroic Marines in Iraq on how the campaign is affecting their jobs...
    "Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,'" said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day." Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, of Bucks County, Pa., said he thought government officials were reticent to speak candidly because of the upcoming U.S. elections. "Stuff's going on here but they won't flat-out say it," he said. "They can't get into it." ... Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, Autin responded: "We don't give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?"
posted by soyjoy at 9:50 PM on October 9, 2004

That's hilarious. And I can't imagine that it is legal; my guess is that it's a grandstand play to make the Kerry campaign get an injunction or something.

If I were another station in one of the Sinclair stations' markets, I would pre-empt my regular broadcast to show the "Kerry was a hero" movie. In fact, if I were People for the American Way or some other 527, I would pay for the time.

Then I'd go nuts with advertising. Hilarious! And, of course, nobody but the true believers would watch either one.

I have to say that the Marine who said "what are they going to do, send us to Iraq" is like a "South Park" kid all grown up.

I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 PM on October 9, 2004

Wow. This must be one of the surprises Karl Rove was talking about to Newsmax.

What utter crap. Boycotting could really work, as much as I hate to emulate the right's tactics... Hit the advertisers locally, and this should shatter.

I guess the gloves are really off...
posted by Busithoth at 5:21 AM on October 10, 2004

Sidhedevil - it's a good thing. Dark, funny, and above all real.
posted by troutfishing at 5:27 AM on October 10, 2004

Boycott Sinclair Advertisers has lots of detailed info on Sinclair and all of it's affiliates and advertisers.

Boycott Sinclair.

Boycott Sinclair's advertisers

Divest from Sinclair associated stocks

Divest from the stocks of Sinclair's Advertisers
posted by troutfishing at 5:45 AM on October 10, 2004

homunculus - it's a shame corpadverticus ties your hands. I have a better idea than that one - which grasps the wedge issue very well but does not know how to deliver it properly or, for that matter whom to deliver it to.
posted by troutfishing at 5:48 AM on October 10, 2004

I've noticed that some of the news stories have had a quote or two from Mark Hyman (Vice President for Corporate Relations for Sinclair). He's the guy who does the commentaries that appear on Sinclair stations. Check that link and you'll be able to read/watch all of his Anti-Kerry commentaries.
posted by gluechunk at 9:30 PM on October 10, 2004

(my head just exploded)
posted by swift at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2004

So, if a television station decides to air a 2 hour "biography" of candidate A, under equal time does a 2 hour biography of candidate B qualify as balance?
posted by 10sball at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2004

My letter to Sinclair:

Subject: Shares Sold

To whom it may concern,

Please be advised that, as a direct result of your decision to compel your affiliates to air Carlton Sherwood's documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal", I have instructed my broker to sell all shares of Sinclair Broadcast Group which I currently own. I have several colleagues who have done the same. I sincerely hope that you will come to understand that today's investors will no longer tolerate blatant, partisan, political maneuvering such as this.

Thank You.

posted by JeffK at 10:28 AM on October 11, 2004

This has reminded of the Nightline thing, and here's a choice quote from Sinclair back then: A statement on Sinclair's website explains: "While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content.
posted by amberglow at 4:36 PM on October 11, 2004

Try to stop them here.
posted by n9 at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2004

more from them: On the October 12 edition of CNN's American Morning, Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president Mark Hyman claimed that if Sinclair's plan to preempt regular programming and broadcast a documentary film (Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal) attacking Senator John Kerry amounts to "an in-kind contribution to George [W.] Bush -- if you use that logic and reasoning, that means every car bomb in Iraq would be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry." Hyman also said networks that have chosen to ignore the anti-Kerry film "are acting like Holocaust deniers."

posted by amberglow at 10:39 AM on October 12, 2004

if you use that logic and reasoning, that means every car bomb in Iraq would be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry."

This man is cleary deranged.
posted by cell divide at 10:58 AM on October 12, 2004

networks that have chosen to ignore the anti-Kerry film "are acting like Holocaust deniers."

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2004

Is it remotely possible that what Sinclair is trying to do is present a BALANCED view of Kerry? In other words, what most network TV viewers know about Kerry is that he served in Vietnam, earned some medals, and was wounded -- portait of a military hero, in other words. Perhaps what Sinclair is attempting is trying to give "equal time" to the OTHER side of the story.

What, no one here believes that? Tell me why.
posted by davidmsc at 7:28 PM on October 12, 2004

"Is it remotely possible...?"

Yes. It is remotely possible.
posted by jaronson at 8:44 PM on October 12, 2004

Then why isn't Sinclair airing Farenheit 9/11? What most TV viewers know about Bush is that he's President, he went into Iraq, brought down Saddam, and has no regrets -- portrait of a Commander-in-Chief, in other words. I think we deserve to hear the other side of the story.

Snarkiness aside, davidmsc, I doubt even you believe that that is what Sinclair is trying to do. You'd be hard pressed to find voters that are not aware of the questions regarding Kerry's military record and the gist of his post-war activities. These were talked about nonstop all summer when the news reports would say, "Some veterans groups have questioned Kerry's military service," et cetera.

This documentary would provide balance for showing Going Upriver during prime time. You know as well as I that "network TV viewers" have already seen both sides of the story.
posted by rafter at 9:22 PM on October 12, 2004

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