According to a White House spokesman: "The president believes we should always remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms." Sinclair Broadcast Group has different ideas. The Hunt Valley, Md.-based media company has ordered its eight ABC affiliates not to run tomorrow night's "Nightline," during which host Ted Koppel is scheduled to read off the names off all 700-plus American service men and women killed during the war in Iraq.
In a prepared statement, Sinclair insists ABC's action, "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." And that: "We do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content." The markets where "Nightline" will be banned are St. Louis, Columbus, Ohio, Asheville, N.C., Greensboro, N.C., Charleston, W.Va., Mobile, Ala., Springfield, Mass., and Tallahassee, Fla.
"I'm mystified why people think a roll call of the dead is a war protest," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. A spokeswoman for ABC News say none of the network's other affiliates have expressed concern about Friday's program, which has been attacked by conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
Sinclair isn't that far removed from the likes of Limbaugh and O'Reilly. According to its website, the company's broadcast groups "include 20 Fox, 19 WB, six UPN, eight ABC, three CBS, four NBC affiliates and two independent stations and reaches approximately 24 percent of all U.S. television households." But the company, and particularly its news division, is known for its conservative tilt. Respected online critic Mark Jefferies of TV Barn, has dubbed Sinclair the "Clear Channel" of local news, and describes Sinclair as having a "fiercely right-wing approach that makes Fox News Channel look like a model of objectivity."
Sinclair's public news face is Mark Hyman, who hosts "The Point," a Fox News-style daily conservative opinion segment. It offers no counterpoint and is beamed to 61 Sinclair-operated stations across the country which air "The Point" during local newscasts. According to an article last year in Alternet, "Mark Hyman rants against peace activists ("wack-jobs"), the French ("cheese-eating surrender monkeys"), progressives ("loony left") and the so-called liberal media, usually referred to as the "hate-America crowd" or the "Axis of Drivel."
Hyman is also Vice President of Corporate Communications for Sinclair. He has not yet returned calls seeking comment about Sinclair's decision to ban "Nightline's" memorial broadcast.