Stopping Sinclair

Published October 12, 2004 6:17PM (EDT)

The widely-derided but apparently still-on-track move by conservative, friend-of-Bush Sinclair Broadcast Group to force its stations to air a movie attacking John Kerry's anti-war activism days before the election has inspired a counterattack on the left, spearheaded by liberal blogs.

A Web site calling for the boycotting of Sinclair lists known advertisers in local markets and their contact info. You can actually search by market and see what local businesses advertise on Sinclair stations, call them up, and let them know you won't tolerate Sinclair's Swift Boat-like political attack masquerading as news programming, and they shouldn't be paying for it.

The site asks for anyone calling advertisers, though, to be polite about it: "Dan's RV center in Sacramento has been getting threatening messages, and the NYT had an article yesterday about the hate mail they've been receiving from the Left, it adds up to an ugly picture. We are bigger than that. Many of these people are ON OUR SIDE -- don't be an asshole when you call them. Invite them to join in us in defending our democracy. If you don't know how to express yourself strongly without making threats then we do not need you help. Remember that there are real human beings on the receiving end of your letter, often a secretary -- these are the people Democrats represent so don't take your anger with a right wing CEO out on some poor soul who makes $9/ hour answering phones -- it just isn't right."

A Daily Kos diarist says at least one advertiser, Sylvan Learning Center, has pulled ads after getting complaints about "Stolen Honor."

Another anti-Sinclair effort afoot is this Stop Sinclair Web site, which is going the petition route:

"We, the undersigned, respectfully request that Sinclair Broadcast Group not air the documentary Stolen Honor. We believe that it is inappropriate and unfair to air partisan propaganda in the last 10 days of an election campaign. We will make our position known to Sinclair, its advertisers, and any affiliated organizations."

At this writing, there are nearly 20,000 people signed on.

The LeftCoaster blog has another idea: "What isn't done a lot which requires the broadcaster to rack up expensive legal fees, is to challenge every one of their affiliates' FCC license renewals as they come up this year and next."

And the DNC and 18 U.S. Senators are also calling for federal probes into Sinclair -- whether Stolen Honor is an illegal "in-kind" contribution to the Bush campaign and an improper use of the public airwaves.

Will any of the anti-Sinclair activities have an impact before the scheduled airing of Stolen Honor? Unclear. But we must not underestimate the magnitude of what we're talking about here: The nation's largest owner of TV stations, a clear Bush partisan, is forcing political propaganda onto the airwaves and pretending it is "news." And this is days before a presidential election, with the clear intent to change the outcome. Imagine if a broadcast group forced its affiliates to air Fahrenheit 9/11 on the eve of the election. After all, right-wing backlash got the "Reagans" miniseries bounced from CBS to cable -- we can only imagine the outcry if the tables were turned in the Stolen Honor controversy.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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