A turning point this week?
A long road to the final paragraphs that suggest just that…
Since it is the press controversy
of the week regarding the war, it seems best to review the business with the Sinclair Broadcast Group and ABC News, a division
of the Disney Corporation.
Friday, March 30, on his show ABC show “Nightline”
– broadcast after the late local news around 11:30 in most markets – the host and producer Ted Koppel read the
names of all the soldiers killed to date in Iraq. Sinclair Broadcast Group decided
not to air the show on their stations. Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber said
this: "We find it to be contrary to the public interest."
The boycott affects eight ABC-affiliated Sinclair
To be official about this, here are the positions:
OF THE SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP
The ABC Television network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30th edition of “Nightline”
will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen
and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for
the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in
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. As a result, we have decided to preempt
the broadcast of “Nightline” this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.
We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose
to read the names of the 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed
in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In
his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.
ABC NEWS STATEMENT IN RESPONSE
We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to pre-empt "Nightline's" tribute to America's
fallen soldiers which will air this Friday, April 30. The Nightline broadcast
is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country. ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with
neither fear nor favor -- as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands. Contrary
to the statement issued by Sinclair, which takes issue with our level of coverage of the effects of terrorism on our citizens,
ABC News and all of our broadcasts, including "Nightline," have reported hundreds of stories on 9-11. Indeed, on the first anniversary of 9-11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims of that horrific
In sum, we are particularly proud of the journalism and award
winning coverage ABC News has produced since September 11, 2001. ABC News will
continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which
ABC News has set for decades.
Here are the stations -
WXLV, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point NC
KDNL, Saint Louis
WSYX, Columbus OH
WCHS, Charleston, Huntington W VA
WGGB, Springfield MA
Is honoring “our war dead”
in this way is a political statement aimed at undermining support for the war? Or
is Sinclair defending Bush. The Sinclair Group is pretty loyal to the administration,
as you can see from their political contributions.
Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly reports this:
Washington Monthly editor Ben Wallace-Wells
emails to say he discussed Nightline on a radio show in a deeply Republican area of North Carolina recently and got a different
The host and his sidekick (whose brother was KIA in Vietnam) opposed Koppel on the established conservative
line: it's politically opportunistic, it's a cynical ratings-grab, it's unpatriotic to drum up opposition to a war president. But we heard from 6 or 7 callers, all but one conservative (and even the Democrat
was a military wife), and to a person they disagreed with the hosts, thought the reading was noble and honorable, a proper
way to honor our dead. Some still agreed that the timing was opportunistic, politically
motivated, but nevertheless they said they supported the name-reading.
So which is it –
a left-wing political stunt to embarrass the president, or a gesture of respect to honor these people?
… war supporters need to get a grip. In a popular
war, battlefield losses serve to redouble public commitment to the fight, and honoring the dead is viewed as a solemn and
patriotic gesture. It's only in unpopular wars that combat deaths cause public
support to decline.
Present day conservatives seem to unthinkingly assume
that any public acknowledgement of Iraqi war deaths is obviously just an underhanded political gesture designed to
weaken support for the war. This is partly a result of their paranoid conviction
that the sole purpose of the media is to undermine conservative causes, but it's also a tacit admission that this is, fundamentally,
a war with very shallow support indeed. If they really believed in the war and
in the administration's handling of it, they'd show some backbone and welcome Ted Koppel's gesture of respect tonight. Instead they're acting as if they're ashamed we're over there.
Yeah, well, that’s
one way of seeing it.
Want to hear from a Republican, conservative war
hero? Here’s John McCain’s letter to Sinclair:
Fri Apr 30 2004 11:29:49 ET
Washington, D.C. -
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) issued the following letter today to Mr. David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast
Group, in response to the preemption of this evening's Nightline program:
I write to strongly protest your decision
to instruct Sinclair's ABC affiliates to preempt this evening's Nightline program. I
find deeply offensive Sinclair's objection to Nightline's intention to broadcast the names and photographs of Americans who
gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq.
I supported the President's
decision to go to war in Iraq, and remain a strong supporter of that decision. But
every American has a responsibility to understand fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary sacrifices it requires
of those brave men and women who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever forget or grow insensitive to how grave
a decision it is for our government to order Americans into combat. It is a solemn
responsibility of elected officials to accept responsibility for our decision and its consequences, and, with those who disseminate
the news, to ensure that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.
is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers
from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision
to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross
disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium
it most certainly deserves.
Okay, now it comes down
to name-calling. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group says Ted Koppel and the ABC
Disney folks are unpatriotic. McCain, war-hero, former prisoner-of-war in Vietnam,
and one of the two senators from Arizona, says the Sinclair Broadcasting Group is unpatriotic.
Here’s General JC Christian over at Patriot Boy writing to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and
this is satire of course. -
Dear Mr. Smith,
I'm sure the traitors among us will disagree with Sinclair Broadcasting's
decision to spare our nation the trauma of putting names and faces to the young men and women who lost their lives in Iraq. It is better that we hide our dead away and never speak of them. Remembering the fallen only risks shaming Our Leader at a time when he's working very hard to bring us
four more years of his wise leadership.
I hope that you'll consider helping
another great leader as well. For many years, the names of the dead found on
the 1969-1973 sections of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall have served as silent criticism of Richard Milhous Nixon's war
policies. Isn't it time they were removed and replaced by scenes depicting the
President's greatest moments--events like the secret invasion of Cambodia and Kissinger's announcement of a secret plan to
end the war after the '72 election?
JC Christian, Patriot
Yeah well, the week ended
with everyone weighing in on this.
Here you’ll find background on this Sinclair organization. Some nuggets -
Like many a media empire, Sinclair grew through
a combination of acquisitions, clever manipulations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, and considerable lobbying
campaigns. Starting out as a single UHF station in Baltimore in 1971, the company
started its frenzied expansion in 1991 when it began using "local marketing agreements" as a way to circumvent FCC rules that
bar a company from controlling two stations in a single market.
"LMAs" allow Sinclair to buy one station outright and control another by acquiring not its license but its assets. Today, Sinclair touts itself as "the nation's largest commercial television broadcasting company not owned
by a network." You've probably never heard of them because the 62 stations they run – garnering 24 percent of the national
TV audience – fly the flags of the networks they broadcast: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the WB.
TV Barn's Mark Jeffries calls Sinclair the "Clear Channel of local news," a reference to the San
Antonio, Texas, media giant that has grown from 40 to more than 1,200 stations today thanks to the 1996 Telecommunications
Act, which relaxed radio ownership rules. But the parallels extend beyond their
growth strategies. Jeffries describes Sinclair as having a "fiercely right-wing
approach that makes Fox News Channel look like a model of objectivity," while Clear Channel is best known for sponsoring pro-war
"Rallies for America" during the Iraq conflict. And like Clear Channel's CEO
L. Lowry Mays – a major Republican donor and onetime business associate
of George W. Bush – the Sinclair family, board, and executives ply the
GOP with big money. Since 1997, they have donated well over $200,000 to Republican
The rest of the item goes
on to discuss how Sinclair programs news on these sixty-two stations – basically a feed from Baltimore of all items
not strictly local that only seems to come from the local station – all carefully managed. To maintain the appearance of local news, the Baltimore on-air staff is coached on correct local pronunciations. Or the weatherman, safely removed from the thunderstorms in, say, Minneapolis, will
often engage in scripted banter with the local anchor to maintain the pretense: "Should I bring an umbrella tomorrow, Don?"
"You bet, Hal, it looks pretty ugly out there..."
You get the idea.
at the conservative site NewsMax you get a more positive view of Sinclair.
Sinclair, The Next Fox, 'Fair and Balanced'
Wes Vernon, Thursday, January 29, 2004
WASHINGTON -- One of the nation’s newest and fastest-growing TV news networks says it's
tired of left-leaning news reporting and wants to offer Americans a fair and balanced perspective, just as Fox News Channel
Fox News eschewed politically correct news to become the dominant
force on cable news. And now the Sinclair Broadcast Group has been following
in Fox's footsteps to do the same for broadcast news in news markets across the nation.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) is the eighth-largest network of television stations, based on revenues,
and the nation's largest independent group owner of stations, according to Broadcasting & Cable.
… The broadcast operation reaches nearly 5 million viewers each night, an audience that surpasses
even Fox and CNN.
And just like Fox News, Sinclair's News Central is
getting some heat from some establishment media outlets for offering a more balanced and less liberal-leaning news report.
Sinclair relishes the criticism.
[we're] in the red states," says Sinclair's Vice President for Corporate Affairs Mark Hyman in a NewsMax interview, referring
to the markets SBG serves -- mostly in "red" states George Bush won in the 2000 election.
… Hyman says with some glee that Sinclair stations are "not in the Hamptons, not in the regions of the
cultural elite who look down on the 'little people.' " Thus, he suggests, Sinclair is fulfilling a demand in flyover country
for a fresh perspective on the news.
"I think that is good for us because
the folks who live in the red sections of the country are the ones most starved for a balanced newscast," he adds.
… As Hyman puts it [referring to critics], "The left's real beef is who controls the microphone. We're not liberal. We're not providing
a slanted view. And that's what really angers them."
Sinclair CEO David
Smith echoed that sentiment, telling the Washington Post that his aim is to offer a "fair and balanced" news program, something
missing on the major network news programs.
"Our objective is to tell
the story in the most truthful and honest way possible," he said, adding, "There will be no spin."
Of course not. Sinclair CEO David Smith is a fine man.
Still, this sort of thing from the city where I grew up is a bit distressing.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
August 17, 1996, Saturday, SOONER EDITION
D. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Sinclair Broadcast Group, was arrested this week in his hometown of Baltimore
and charged with a misdemeanor sex offense. Sinclair owns WPGH, the Fox affiliate
in Pittsburgh, and programs most of WPTT.
The Baltimore Sun reported
that Smith, 45, was arrested Tuesday night in an undercover sting at a downtown corner frequented by prostitutes.
On Thursday night, Sinclair issued a statement that Smith's arrest was unrelated to company business
and ''The company will continue to operate under the direction of its current management.''
Ah, not important.
But you might like juicy detail.
Broadcasting official charged in sex stakeout
Sinclair president, woman arrested in company
Published on: August 15, 1996
Byline: BALTIMORE SUN STAFF
The president of Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which owns the local Fox television
affiliate, was arrested Tuesday night and charged with committing a perverted sex act in a company-owned Mercedes, city police
David Deniston Smith, 45, of the 800 block of Hillstead Drive in
Timonium, who also is Sinclair's chief executive, was arrested in an undercover sting at Read and St. Paul streets, a downtown
corner frequented by prostitutes, Baltimore police said yesterday.
and Mary DiPaulo, 31, were charged with committing unnatural and perverted sex act.
Smith was held overnight at the Central Booking and Intake Center and released on personal recognizance at 2 p.m. yesterday. DiPaulo's bail status was not available.
at WBFF-TV (Fox 45) and Sinclair, one of the fastest-growing broadcasting companies in the nation with 28 television and 34
radio stations, would not comment yesterday. The company had $126 million in
sales in the first half of this year.
Police said undercover Officer
Gary Bowman, on a prostitution detail, was talking to DiPaulo about 9: 15 p.m. in
a car at St. Paul and Read streets. She
left the undercover car after telling Bowman that ``she had just seen her regular date driving in the area,'' according to
Police said DiPaulo ran across the street to a 1992
Mercedes, registered to Sinclair, and got in on the passenger side. Police followed
the car onto the Jones Falls Expressway, where they said they witnessed the two engage in oral sex while Smith drove north.
Police said they followed the car back to Read and St. Paul streets, where they arrested Smith and DiPaulo, who lives in the 700 block of Washington Blvd.
none of that has much to do with the “Nightline” show and the roll call of the dead.
April 30 may come to be a turning point kind of day.
The business of our soldiers,
either the real ones or the subcontractors we use, humiliating, mocking and even torturing prisoners we hold near Baghdad
exploded in the Arab press today – with all the pictures.
ABC does this “litany
of the dead” reading.
The Mirror in the
UK publishes photos of British soldiers treating an Iraqi civilian prisoner rather badly – photos of the guys urinating on him. And they later knocked out all his teeth, broke his jaw, then drove him off in the
night and dumped him from the back of a truck – and thus lost track of him. They
have no idea if he survived. Those pictures will hit the Arab press tomorrow.
And our Marines have decided
not to mess with Fallujah – and one of Saddam’s generals has been brought out of retirement, and he rounded up
more than a thousand former Iraqi soldiers, and this fellow will take care of things for us there. That doesn’t look good to the locals - Saddam's guys with guns are back. And we set it up.
Things are, indeed, going a bit
sour as this week ends.