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New York Times Says Sinclair in Trouble

Monday, 18 October 2004 12:00 AM

At least that's what the New York Times appears to be saying in its Monday article.

The Times openly acknowledges the impact this film could have: "Senator John Kerry could find his presidential hopes damaged this week when the 62 television stations owned or managed by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group carry a documentary about his antiwar activities 30 years ago."

The Times is clearly worried that Smith, head of the nation's largest owner of television stations, has already informed his 62 affiliates to pre-empt their regular programming and instead air the controversial

In "Stolen Honor" 17 former POWs charge that Kerry's anti-war activities were a betrayal that prolonged the war.

Sinclair executives have defended the decision to broadcast the film because, they say, it is a vital and newsworthy project that should be presented to voters before the election.

While the Times admits the film could hurt Kerry's White House chances, especially in key swing states that are vital to his bid, the paper also claims airing the program could hurt Sinclair as much, if not more.

The paper says local advertisers in Portland, Maine, Madison, Wis., Springfield, Ill., and Minneapolis, Minn. – not exactly bastions of conservatism – have pulled their ads from the local Sinclair-owned affiliates.

"I've decided I don't want to advertise on them," Adam Lee, the president of Lee Auto Malls, which owns 10 auto dealerships in Portland, Maine, told the Times. "It's a public trust. It seems they're abusing it. If it were a news show and they were really trying to do a fair and balanced story on both sides, that would be a different matter. I don't think they are. That's not their intention."

And that's the extent of the paper's examples. There are no other quotes from other businesses or advertisers who claim they are pulling ads, though the Times alleged "car dealers, furniture makers, supermarkets and restaurants" were among the disenfranchised advertisers.

There's more. The Times admits that a number of left-leaning groups – including Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Media Access Project, Media for Democracy and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ – are compiling a list of Sinclair advertisers, with plans to urge them to drop their advertising as well.

"The public airwaves should not be used by television executives to promote their partisan political agenda," Common Cause President Chellie Pingree told reporters in a telephone press conference. "This action crosses a line."

Besides contacting Sinclair advertisers, which include Wal-Mart, Applebee's, Domino's Pizza, Lowe's, Papa John's and Best Buy, these groups also are looking to give Sinclair problems when it seeks to renew each individual station's broadcast license.

It's not about getting those licenses revoked, however – it's about employing a typical left-wing legal tactic: "Such challenges almost never result in lost licenses, but they often result in heavy legal costs for the station having to defend them," said the Times.

Other media are piling on the bandwagon, predicting that Sinclair will suffer mightily for its decision.

CNN/Money reported Monday that Sinclair's decision "has stirred up considerable political controversy, but the planned program may also cause some pain for Sinclair's business."

The newswire says Sinclair will lose out on about $430,000 in revenue if it decides to forgo advertising altogether and pre-empt the entire 90-minute slot with the program.

"That's not quite pocket change, but it won't put a big dent in Sinclair's revenue. The company last year posted a net profit of $24 million on sales of $739 million," CNN/Money reported.

For its part, Sinclair believes it is approaching the issue in the fairest way it can.

The network, on its Web site, has invited viewers to comment on the appropriateness of showing the documentary.

The network has also repeatedly invited Kerry to appear as a guest on the special – in fact, he's the only one who's been asked to appear. So far, however, he's declined.

Executives are also quick to point out that the production of "Stolen Honor" hasn't even been completed yet.

"The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources," says an announcement on the network's Web site.

The Times article did not address why CBS continues to have anti-Bush newsman Dan Rather anchor its nightly news program.

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At least that's what the New York Times appears to be saying in its Monday article. The Times openly acknowledges the impact this film could have: "Senator John Kerry could find his presidential hopes damaged this week when the 62 television stations owned or managed...
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Monday, 18 October 2004 12:00 AM
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