Common Cause, media groups challenge Sinclair Broadcast
Like all broadcasters who receive their public airwaves licenses for free from the government, Sinclair Broadcast Group promises to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. At the heart of that promise is the commitment to report the news as fairly as possible, and to air diverse points of view on issues of national and local importance. Airing the anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, or portions of it, and billing it as "news" is not fair, and fails to provide viewers with the even-handed journalism that they require.
Sinclair's plan to force its 62 local stations to air the movie just days before an election is a glaring example of the dangers of media consolidation.
"The public airwaves should not be used by television executives to promote their partisan political agenda," said Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause. "This action crosses a line."
Sinclair's political agenda is unquestionable. Since 1997, the corporation and its executives have given more than $250,000 to national political parties and federal candidates, nearly all of it to Republicans. Sinclair's decision to air this documentary also raises questions about whether this constitutes an illegal corporate gift to the Bush campaign.
Also troubling is the fact that Sinclair reportedly is giving its 62 stations no choice in whether to air the movie. This is one of the key flaws of concentrated media ownership: Sinclair, headquartered in Maryland, gets to dictate programming for communities in North Carolina, Ohio and Florida and across the United States without local citizens having a say.
Sinclair's plans reinforce the need for the Federal Communications Commission to place restrictions on media concentration and to define in specific terms what broadcast licensees must do to serve the public interest.
When media conglomerates with political agendas decide what constitutes "news" for the American public, true democratic discourse is threatened.
Common Cause intends to engage activists all over the country in a dialogue with Sinclair about its news judgment.
1.) We will work with our members to contact Sinclair-owned
stations and urge station managers not to mask political
as commentary news by airing "Stolen Honor."
2.) We will conduct an advocacy campaign to encourage the
FCC and Congress to direct Sinclairto uphold its public
3.) We will make our case to Sinclair shareholders and advertisers
that playing partisan politics with the public airwaves is
4.) As a last resort we will file license challenges in each of
the Sinclair owned stations that air the broadcast
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Media and Democracy
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.