Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Manipulating the Airwaves

By now, most of you have heard about the Sinclair Broadcasting Group commanding their affiliates to run an anti-Kerry "documentary" roughly 12 days before the election. The hit-piece, entitled "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" will pre-empt regular programming.

I want to first mention two things. First, hats off to Brad at BRADBLOG for calling attention to this. We don't agree on everything, but neither of us likes this. Second, a mea culpa on my part for not finding out about this earlier, especially since I live in an area with a SBG station.

Up here in the Pine Tree State, CBS affiliate WGME is owned by Sinclair (not all their affiliates are ABC-oriented). And if you don't have one of their stations in your area, consider yourself lucky.

This "documentary" isn't all they have done. Unlike any other news station, they tape editorials at their home office in Maryland and then disseminate them to all their afffiliates for a national release. Normal practice is that local stations tape their own editorials that run after the local news.

Up here in Maine, that has some people ticked off. Especially when these are the editorials that run:

In other words, blatant partisan tripe that goes far beyond what the local editorial spot at the end of the news should cover. It'd be like Gannett forcing their stations to run editorials titled "Bush and the Drug Use", "Bush and his Drinking" and so forth. Wouldn't that piss off every Bush supporter? And rightly so.

And it's not just the 6 p.m. news. Nope, this stuff runs after the morning and noon news as well. The only saving grace is that WGME is the lowest-rated newscast in Maine.

The irony is that Sinclair is the same newsgroup that banned the "Nightline" episode in May, 2004 that read off the names of the dead in Iraq. Their reason: it was "a political statement" that should not be part of a news program...

Then what the hell is this?? It's a blatant political attack ad, not a documentary. It's 60 minutes of harsh invective, not news. The title is "Stolen Honor" How can you pretend this is an unbiased documentary?

The sad thing is that they don't have to pretend. When the "fairness doctrine" lapsed in the mid-80s, TV stations were "freed" from the requirement to provide equal time to both candidates. So now groups like Sinclair can force their affiliates to run partisan crap and not have to worry about a fine.

What does it say about where we are as a country that now stations can pick and choose what we are to see and not see? One of the fundamental blocks that our freedom and liberty are built upon is the freedom of the press, the concept that we will be informed about what is going on, without bias, and be able to make our choices based on that information. When that freedom is manipulated and tarnished, it belittles us as a people and as a nation. It smacks of Soviet propaganda, of the state media you'd find in a banana republic. It's wrong, and it cannot go unchallenged.

To that end, there is a boycott of Sinclair advertisers underway. Now, I supported the boycott of CBS over that vile Reagan "biopic". So it's perfectly acceptable to apply this in the other direction. To me, this isn't a partisan issue, but an issue about preventing the abuse of our press. So if you value a press that is truly free, go on over to the boycott site.

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