Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sinclair Broadcasting

Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns about 62 televisions station - including ones in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa, has directed its stations to preempt their regular schedule and broadcast the anti-Kerry documentary film "Stolen Honor." (You can read further coverage about this in the LA Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post.)

In response to this, several liberal website (Josh Marshall and Daily Kos among them) have begun to publicize a boycott of the Sinclair advertisers (You can visit the boycott Sinclair website here.) Sinclair stockholders are also being urged to complain about this, or perhaps bring a shareholders lawsuit.

There are many interesting issues that this raises, including the differences between the print media and the over-the-air media. (For example, no one will complain when the New York Times endorses John Kerry, but traditionally, the over-the-air media does not make explicit endorsements, in large part to the fact that they are merely renting their prime distribution method (their channel frequency) from the government, and have to apply and reapply for a license to use this public resource.)

Beside the propriety of airing a partisan documentary, it also raises the issues of how do "average folk" combat such a decision made by a corporation. An effective boycott could have wide ranging implications. As we sit here today, publicly owned corporations can do close to anything they want, without regards to their shareholder wishes (privately owned companies can, of course, do whatever they please), but changing that dynamic would be have wide, and I think positive, repercussions.

It also raises "fair use" and equal time issues, which Sinclair is trying to get around by inviting Kerry and call this a "news program."

This is what Sinclair Broadcasting has had to say so far (from CNN):

However, the accusations coming from Terry McAuliffe and others, is it because they are some elements of this that may reflect poorly on John Kerry? That it's somehow an in-kind contribution of George Bush?

If you use that logic and reasoning, that means every car bomb in Iraq would be an in-kind contribution to John Kerry. Weak job performance ratings that came out last month would have been an in- kind contribution to John Kerry. And that's just nonsense.

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.

My best guess is that this "news program" never airs, but it is a side drama, which could have some real lasting effects.