MEDIA ACTION ALERT:
Sinclair's Partisan Ploy Cries Out for Equal Time
"Stolen Honor"-- much like the discredited Swift Boat Veterans ads-- offers unsubstantiated claims by alleged Vietnam POWs that their Vietnamese captors used Kerry's anti-war statements against them. In fact, the organization that paid for "Stolen Honor"-- called POWs for Truth-- recently merged with the Swift Boat Vets, forming a combined group called Swift Vets and POWS for Truth (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/04).
The film was made by Carlton Sherwood, a consultant to the Bush administration's Department of Homeland Security and a personal friend of the department's head, Tom Ridge. A former reporter for Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, Sherwood also wrote a book about Moon, Inquisition, that the self-proclaimed messiah was allowed to see before publication. After reviewing the book and giving Sherwood a list of changes, Moon aide James Gavin wrote to Moon: "In addition to silencing our critics now, the book should be invaluable in persuading others of our legitimacy for many years to come." Moon reportedly ordered 100,000 advance copies of the book from the publisher, a subsidiary of the conservative imprint Regnery (Frontline, 1/21/92).
Sinclair's ties to the right are no less strong. According to the Los Angeles Times (10/9/04), in the 2004 political cycle, 97 percent of contributions made by Sinclair executives went to Republicans. Sinclair has a record of allowing its conservative agenda to influence its programming decisions. For instance, in April, Sinclair ordered seven of its ABC-affiliated stations not to air an episode of Nightline that featured the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq, saying, "We do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content."
However, soon after the September 11 attacks, Sinclair stations were required to air editorial statements in support of the Bush administration (Extra!, 11-12/01). And most Sinclair stations are also required to air commentaries from the company's vice president, Mark E. Hyman, during their newscasts. Hyman's conservative commentaries routinely include harsh attacks on Kerry, who Hyman accuses of "a lifetime of supporting Communist forces opposed to the U.S." (The Point, 9/22/04).
Questions have been raised about whether the extraordinary decision to force stations to carry the film violates FCC requirements that broadcasts provide equal time for electoral candidates. The rule does not apply to coverage of legitimate news stories, and Hyman appeared on CNN (10/12/04) to claim that "Stolen Honor" fell in this category:
"This is news. I can't change the fact that these people decided to come forward today. The networks had this opportunity over a month ago to speak with these people. They chose to suppress them. They chose to ignore them. They are acting like Holocaust deniers, pretending these men don't exist."
Hyman's bizarre analogy aside, Sinclair's obvious attempt to affect the election by broadcasting the film is exactly the sort of use of public airwaves to promote station owners' private political agendas that federal regulations have always been designed to prevent. "American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations," Rep. Luther Johnson warned at the time of the passage of the Radio Act of 1927.
With growing numbers of stations controlled by chains like Sinclair-- which controls more television licenses than any other operator-- these concerns are more relevant than ever. As former FCC chairman Reed Hundt wrote to Sinclair (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/04):
"How can it be part of a broadcaster's public interest obligation to aspire to alter the perceptions of the audience about a presidential candidate by showing biased content that in no way reflects either breaking news or even-handed treatment of the issues? Why should a broadcaster keep its licenses if it behaves in this manner?"
If Sinclair wants to give more exposure to "Stolen Honor," it can do so fairly by providing equal time for an examination of the same subject from an opposing perspective. The documentary "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," a positive account of Kerry's service in Vietnam and his anti-war activism upon his return, would seem to be an ideal candidate. The Chicago Tribune (10/1/04) called it "almost essential viewing... that anyone who intends to vote this November should make every effort to see."
ACTION: Please call Sinclair Broadcasting and tell them that if it airs a partisan documentary attacking a presidential candidate just before the election, then it should give equal time to a documentary from an opposing perspective, like "Going Upriver."
As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc email@example.com with your correspondence.
For more information about activist campaigns regarding Sinclair, see: sinclairwatch.org
Your donation to FAIR makes a difference: fair.org/donate.html
SUBSCRIBE TO EXTRA! AND GET FAIR'S NEW BOOK FOR FREE: The Oh Really? Factor fair.org/ohreally.html
FAIR SHIRTS: Get your "Don't Trust the Corporate Media" shirt today at FAIR's online store: merchantamerica.com/fair/
FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in the U.S. and Canada. To find the CounterSpin station nearest you, visit fair.org/counterspin/stations.html
Feel free to respond to FAIR ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to email@example.com.
You can subscribe to FAIR-L at our web site: http://www.fair.org . Our subscriber list is kept confidential.
Copyright © 2004 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
This story was published on October 13, 2004.
Local Stories, Events
Ref. : Civic Events
Ref. : Arts & Education Events
Ref. : Public Service Notices
Books, Films, Arts & Education
12.11 This For-Profit College Is Leaving Students With Lots of Debt and No Degrees [It's a Trump University World]
Ref. : Letters to the editor
Health Care & Environment
12.15 John Kerry: Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change. [Might he be a candidate for President in 2020?]
12.15 Black lung disease is still killing miners. The coal industry doesn't want to hear it [Trump loves Coal]
12.11 The will of the people is to halt climate change, what about politicians? [Excellent!]
12.11 'We live in a lobstocracy': Maine town is feeling the effects of climate change [Do you care?]
12.11 Protesters disrupt pro-fossil fuel event at COP24 – video [Do you care?]
12.11 'It's a sad reality': a troubling trend sees a 97% decline in monarch butterflies [Do you care?]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
12.15 What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? [”The Saudi check is in the mail.”]
12.15 Scott Walker signs bills to limit powers of incoming Wisconsin Democrats [Immoral people cheat, etc.]
12.15 Trump science adviser casts doubt on links between pollution and health problems [Consider the ignorant/bribed source.]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
International & Futurism
12.15 Denmark gives new fathers paid leave. Why do so few take it? [Audio clip]
12.13 The Honduran Nightmare
12.10 US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge [The Oil Mafias lobby for more insanity]