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Sinclair blinks

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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.

Reasonably related

Salon subscribers can read the news item here.

Note: My blog is Mac-a-ro-nies.

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  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Liberal philanthropists have offered to pay Sinclair to air another documentary, “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry.” I doubt Sinclair will bite. Indeed, there was probably mass nausea at their offices upon hearing the suggestion. But, reviews say the film sheds light on how John Kerry’s experiences in Vietnam and subsequent activitism have influenced his thinking. You can read one here.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    Sinclair is a sinister right wing organization that needs to be punished. That is why I have spent the last two weeks politely entreating every advertiser of theirs (go here for more info http://www.boycottsbg.com/advertisers/
    to tell them to get out of partisan politics or we will boycott their products. It has been mildly successful. I think we can all agree things are split dead down the middle. So what jackass business school teaches these guys to alienate half of all consumers?
    What Sinclair is doing is against the law. I can’t wait to see the indictments that are going to be handed down from the Kerry administration to these bastards. You know they will run the whole anti-Kerry piece, which subverts campaign finance laws… and so democracy.
    Sinclair is a public subsidized entity, and so it governed by various laws… which include equal time for candidates.

    I don’t see the same coming from Sinclair. They are dressing it up and skirting the issue. I believe this last announcement was made to stem the very severe financial bleeding this disastrous decision had caused. On just Monday and Tuesday the company lost 12% of their value. So last night they accounced a re-worded versiou slightly backing down (and mostly denying). It worked, their stock came right back up today. I have nothing nice to say to them, or their advertisers.

    As for the FCC, with Michael Powell as the chairman (son of Colin Powell) they are acting more as a privitized wing of the Republican party.

    Just one of the zillions of reasons I voted Democratic yesterday. Early voting rules! I did it in ten minutes at the local grocery chain here in Colorado.

    Thanks for listening, that was long… but I am pretty angry about this issue.

    Thanks,
    Lono

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    On the other hand, there may be some kind of reward for Sinclair if Bush pulls it off, again. Just considering the rewards the Shrubites will be dispensing in a second term should be enough to give a thinking person pause. Continued abuse of gays and stymying of SCI research for the Christian Right. Vouchers for those who want to destroy the public school system. An expansion of the war for warmongers. Trent Lott welcomed back into the fold to please his constituency. Etc.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    I don’t doubt that at all. I think Sinclair is taking a HUGE gamble the Bush will be re-elected, and his people will make this go away. It’s a pretty big gamble though, because if Bush doesn’t win
    – I say it is time to start passing around the indictments for subverting democracy and campaign finance laws. Frankly, I’d like to see the whole company backrupt and it’s board of directors in jail.

    scratch that, this isn’t the employees fault. So just fire and/or imprison the board of directors but let the regular staff keep their jobs.