Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sinclair Broadcast Group in Illinois

The Sinclair Broadcast Group owns TV stations that blanket 24% of the US population. Sinclair’s CEO is David Smith, a major Bush contributor. Why is that important?

Check this out:

“[Sinclair has ordered] its 62 local stations to broadcast an anti-Kerry film a few days before the November 2, 2004 general election. Those 62 stations include affiliates of all six major broadcast networks in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The broadcast will preempt normal prime-time programming on those outlets.”

Jason would like us to think that this is no different than Michael Moore’s efforts to do a PPV special of Farenheit 9/11.

Except it is different. As former FCC Chairman Reed Hunt explains, it’s the same reason Howard Stern is going to Sirius radio: the government regulates the public broadcast spectrum, while private (i.e., for-pay) media are free of regulation and can disseminate whatever they want. Says Hunt:

… To that end, since television was invented, Congress and its delegated agency, the Federal Communications Commision, together have passed laws and regulations to ensure that broadcast television stations provide reasonably accurate, balanced, and fair coverage of major Presidential and Congressional candidates. These obligations are reflected in specific provisions relating to rights to buy advertising time, bans against the gift of advertising time, rights to reply to opponents, and various other specific means of accomplishing the goal of balance and fairness. The various rules are part of a tradition well known to broadcasters an honored by almost all of them. This tradition is embodied in the commitment of the broadcasters to show the conventions and the debates.

Part of this tradition is that broadcasters do not show propaganda for any candidate, no matter how much a station owner may personally favor one or dislike the other. Broadcasters understand that they have a special and conditional role in public discourse. They received their licenses from the public — licenses to use airwaves that, for instance, cellular companies bought in auctions — for free, and one condition is the obligation to help us hold a fair and free election. The Supreme Court has routinely upheld this “public interest” obligation. Virtually all broadcasters understand and honor it.

Sinclair is attempting to thumb its nose at the government, blatantly subvert laws put in place to protect candidates of both parties (given how allegedly liberal the media really is, this is really a Republican protection, come to think of it), and raise questionable allegations just hours before the election in an effort to swing a few thousand (hundred?) votes. It is not hard to imagine that such an effort could play a major role in the outcome of the election, given Sinclair’s presence in almost every major swing state, and the razor-thin margins separating both candidates right now.

What can you do? A massive effort throughout the blogosphere is afoot to demand Sinclair’s advertisers (in particular, their local advertisers) apply pressure to Sinclair to abandon this effort immediately. A full list of Sinclair’s stations is here. A list of advertisers by state is here, and Illinois advertisers are available by selecting Champaign or Peoria from the drop-down list.

In Illinois, you can contact WYZZ in Peoria at (309) 688-3131, and WICS and WICD in Champaign at (217) 753-5620 and (217) 351-8500 respectively. See the links above for contact info for the individual advertisers. Remember that many advertisers agree with you, so your goal isn’t to berate them for advertising, but to explain the situation and how they can help.

Hop on it folks, this is important. And I’d hope even those who support President Bush but who respect the rule of law will join in condemning Sinclair’s attempt for what it is: a shameful disregard of the law.


  1. In fairness to your argument let's consider this. CBS runs a story under the guise of "news" and gets a Kerry campaign "Vice Chair" to testify to the veracity, while trotting out fake documents to support the story. Meanwhile, no effort is made to balance the story and, in fact, efforts are made to blatantly ignore facts that contradict the premise of the story including the supporting fake documents and claims of the Kerry "Vice Chair".

    But somehow Democrats are outraged by a group that wants to run a story completely based on John Kerry's UNDER OATH TESTIMONY? They file a complaint with the FCC about fairness, even though the stories producers actually INVITE JOHN KERRY to participate on a panel to discuss and defend his position.

    Yeah, it all makes sense.....

  2. Jason, come now. No effort to authenticate the documents? I count 28 individual posts at Talking Points Memo alone. CBS acknowledged they cannot authenticate the documents. As for the Kerry Vice Chair? You're referring to Barnes, I assume... who had nothing to do with the Killian controversy. (If you're referring to a different Vice Chair, let me know who; once it was clear the documents were forgeries I stopped paying close attention.)

    Finally, are you really arguing that this movie is unbiased? CBS doing a shoddy journalistic job on a regularly scheduled news program (which was subsequently reported on endlessly on all networks, news outlets, and late night shows) is a far different animal than a CEO preempting regular programming to air a slanted program designed to sway voters to his side.

  3. You claim David Smith is a bigtime Bush donor - but ironically, I see he also gave money to Al Gore in 2000.


  4. Crazy at it seems, this "major Bush contributor" also gave money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte and Democrats for the House 1996.

  5. If I were a betting man, I'd guess those amounts coincide with a couple fundraisers...

    Nevertheless, good catches.

  6. Sinclair Broadcasting is compeling their affiliates to show what's basically a 90 minute campaign commercial during prime time just before the election.

    This is a blatant abuse of the public airwaves. I also believe their actions to be a grave threat to our democracy that will reverberate long after this election regardless of who wins.

    Boycott the stations and their advertisers.

    WYZZ, Peoria, IL
    2714 E. Lincoln Street
    Bloomington, IL 61704
    Web: www.wyzz43.com

    WICD, Springfield, IL
    250 South Country Fair Drive
    Champaign, IL 61812
    Web: www.wicd15.com

    WICS, Springfield, IL
    2680 East Cook Street
    Springfield, IL 62703
    Web: www.wics.com

    For advertisers: