Sinclair Fires Back at Critics; Special to Air Oct. 22

Oct 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Sinclair Broadcast Group took on its critics Tuesday as it announced the title, content and broadcast schedule for its controversial one-hour news program that has spurred protests and calls for boycotts of Sinclair stations and advertisers.

“A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media” will air at 8 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 22 on some 40 of the 62 stations owned and/or programmed by Sinclair. In markets in which the station owns and/or programs more than one station, the program will air only on one station.

The announcement said the program will focus on attempts to influence voting via “documentaries and other media” and on the “content of certain of these documentaries.”

According to the announcement, “The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage.”

The announcement also took issue with the characterizations of its plans in “numerous inaccurate political and press accounts.” It claimed that Sinclair, which is well-known for its conservative politics and contributions, had never said it planned to air in its entirety the documentary “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” in which Vietnam-era prisoners of war argue that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s antiwar activities exacerbated their situations in captivity.

“A POW Story,” which Sinclair describes as a news special, will discuss the “Stolen Honor” allegations in the context of the broader discussion suggested by the title. The program will be hosted by Jeff Barnd, news anchor of Sinclair flagship station WBFF-TV in Baltimore.

Sinclair News VP Joe DeFeo said, “We have not ceded, and will not in the future cede, control of our news reporting to any outside organization or political group. We are endeavoring, as we do with all of our news coverage, to present both sides of the issues covered in an equal and impartial manner.”

According to the announcement, Sinclair “has been in private communication with Sen. Kerry’s campaign, including a recent face-to-face meeting with senior campaign officials, for approximately two weeks in order to negotiate participation in the special by either Senator Kerry or his designee. Although the Kerry campaign declined to participate, Sinclair has left the invitation open and will make every effort to accommodate the Senator up to the air date for the program should he become willing to present his viewpoint for Sinclair’s audience.”

Sinclair CEO David Smith said in the announcement that “The experience of preparing to air this news special has been trying for many of those involved. The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock.”

Mr. Smith claimed, “We have received threats of retribution from a member of Sen. John Kerry’s campaign and have seen attempts by leading members of Congress to influence the Federal Communications Commission to stop Sinclair from broadcasting this news special. Moreover, these coordinated attacks have occurred without regard to the facts since they predated the broadcast of our news special.”

Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said, “Sinclair Broadcasting has a history of putting their own partisan politics ahead of honest journalism. We do hope they will reconsider their decision to help their friend, George W. Bush, by imposing false, negative attacks upon their viewers. It’s not the American way for local television stations to promote their own political agenda.”

A complete list of stations carrying “A POW Story” can be found on Sinclair’s Web site, www.sbgi.net.