Kerry Requests Response Time to Sinclair Film

Oct 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s campaign Friday morning formally requested equal time to respond to Sinclair stations’ planned airings of “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” a documentary critical of Sen. Kerry’s Vietnam-era antiwar activities, before the Nov. 2 election.

Industry sources said Sinclair has directed all of its 62 TV stations in 39 markets to pre-empt regular programming to air the documentary over several days beginning Oct. 21. Despite intense protest by Democrats, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell told reporters Thursday that the agency doesn’t have the authority to block the broadcasts.

But in an Oct. 15 letter to Sinclair President and CEO David Smith, Sen. Kerry’s campaign charged that the FCC’s equal time obligations require Sinclair to give Kerry campaign supporters air time to respond to the documentary.

“Please consider this a request that each Sinclair station that airs the documentary provide supporters of the Kerry-Edwards campaign with a similar amount of time on that station before the election at a time where an audience of similar size can be expected to be viewing the station,” said Marc Elias, general counsel for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, in the letter.

Bona fide news shows are generally exempt from FCC equal time obligations. But the Kerry campaign argued that the documentary does not meet the requirements for an exemption.

“The content of the program will not be controlled by Sinclair or an independent journalistic organization,” the campaign said. “The program instead is intended to be an attack on Senator Kerry and thus is not the result of decisions made on the basis of newsworthiness.”

In a statement on the company’s Web site, Sinclair characterized the presentation as a “special news event” and said it has already offered Sen. Kerry equal time to respond.

Also on Friday, Equity Broadcasting announced that its independent station WPXS-TV in St. Louis will carry the ABC programming that Sinclair pre-empts for the documentary. Sinclair owns ABC affiliate KDNL-TV in St. Louis. Equity officials said Sinclair plans to air the Kerry documentary on KDNL between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Oct. 22.

“WPXS is thrilled to be able to offer an outlet for the popular Friday-night ABC shows that viewers would otherwise not be able to see in the St. Louis market,” said Steven Soldinger, Equity VP of television.