Sinclair may or may not be backpedaling in regard to its plan to air a documentary attacking presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry on Election Eve. It is either/or because the broadcaster waffles so in its announcement, an effort to either repudiate, soften or mask its previous aggressive stance. The phrase “cognitive dissonance” does not do the company’s ambiguity justice. Perhaps sinking stock prices and shareholders threatening to sue your rabbit ears off have that effect.
Salon has the details.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is rethinking its controversial decision to use its more than 60-plus television stations nationwide for political purposes on the eve of the election by forcing them to air an anti-Kerry documentary, “Stolen Honor.” Under siege from angry Democrats, and hearing from unsettled advertisers, analysts and shareholders , the Maryland-based communications giant, with a heavy Republican slant, moved on Tuesday to clarify its plans. It now insists “Stolen Honor” will not air in its entirety, instead the news special “A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media” is scheduled and will be seen on 39 of its 62 stations.
It is not clear what “A POW Story” is. The announcement described it as a look at how the news media ‘filters’ information. But, it seems to me that a broadcast about that topic would not necessarily be about POWs. Will the new show be selected outtakes from “Stolen Honor”? Will it host veterans who were POWs, but have no actual knowledge of Kerry’s performance in Vietnam? How is airing it any different than airing “Stolen Honor”? If “Stolen Honor” is being tabled, why alter regular programming at all?
Newsday believes it has read the static correctly.
Sinclair Broadcast Group yesterday lashed out at critics of a planned program featuring the complaints of former POWs about Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam-era anti-war activities, as its stock price continued to fall, shareholders threatened to sue and Democratic supporters offered to buy time for a pro-Kerry film.
The politically conservative Maryland company, which controls 62 stations, said in a statement that it would not air a controversial documentary about the POWs’ complaints in full, but that it would air an hour-long program Friday on 40 stations featuring the POWs. Sinclair said it never intended to air the documentary in its entirety.
In fact, Sinclair is now declaring that the high profile dust-up over its plan to try to directly influence the election through biased programming was all a misunderstanding. Eric Boehlert at Salon is not convinced.
In its press release, Sinclair executives seemed to suggest the whole “Stolen Honor” story was a misunderstanding: “Contrary to numerous inaccurate political and press accounts, the Sinclair stations will not be airing the documentary ‘Stolen Honor’ in its entirety. At no time did Sinclair ever publicly announce that it intended to do so.” The key phrase there is “publicly,” because two weeks ago Sinclair headquarters made it perfectly clear to their stations around the country that “Stolen Honor” would be airing, in its entirety, and local affiliates had no say in that decision.
I read and re-read Sinclair CEO David Smith‘s remarks in a futile effort to obtain clarity. I am going to guess that the corporation’s intentions have not changed, but it is somewhat wary. Apparently, the Right Wing leadership of
Sinclair does not get out much. They are surprised by the vehement opposition to their plan. Maybe “Stolen Honor” will be back on the schedule once the furor dies down. Boehlert believes that Sinclair will honor its promise not to air “Stolen Honor,” but present an attack on Kerry of some sort in its place. Either way, the broadcaster will try to directly influence the outcome of the election in its markets. Human beings being what they are — gullible — I think it will succeed to an extent.
Salon subscribers can read the news item here.
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