Sinclair Under Pressure

WickedTribe pointed me to this excellent article which took points from all the other articles I'd read about Sinclair and their fight to air "Stolen Honor":

According to the New York Times, Sinclair Broadcast is itself running a significant financial and political risk by telling its stations to preempt regular programming to carry the film. Their decision has already alienated advertisers on some of Sinclair's 62 stations.

Last Thursday, three local Maine companies pulled their advertising from a Portland TV station WGME after hearing of Sinclair's forced programming. The Portland Press Herald reported that Hannaford supermarkets, the Lee Auto Malls, and the law offices of Joe Bornstein withdrew their advertising indefinitely from WGME over its plans to air 'Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal' on Oct. 23.

Other stations in Madison, Wis., Springfield, Ill. and Minneapolis have had local advertisers-- including car dealers, furniture makers, supermarkets and restaurants -- remove their commercials from Sinclair owned stations.

Besides alienating advertisers, Sinclair has enraged consumer and media watchdog groups, some of who are vowing to challenge the Sinclair-owned station's FCC licenses when they come up for renewal. And some analysts and investors are also considering the effects of Sinclair's latest activity on the company's financial outlook.

According to CNN Money, Sinclair stands to lose more than $430,000 in ad revenue if it were to replace 90 minutes of prime time programming and forgo these ads during the special.

Not a huge amount of money, but if more advertisers drop off the Sinclair stations, the numbers can do some damage.

The potential business costs go beyond that lost ad revenue, though. Web logs and public-interest groups have already called for boycott's and have threatened to challenge Sinclair's FCC licenses. Groups such as Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns; Media Access Project; Media for Democracy and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ have been compiling a database listing of other advertisers on Sinclair-owned stations in hopes to try and persuade them to reconsider airing their commercials on the company's stations. Among those on the list, according to the New York Times, major are chains like Applebee's International, Best Buy, Chili's, Circuit City, Domino's Pizza, Lowe's, Papa John's, Subway, Taco Bell and Wal-Mart Stores.

Even Sinclair's own Washington bureau news division chief, Jon Leiberman, has angrily denounced his employer for their forced programming.

'It's biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election,' said Leiberman. 'For me, it's not about right or left -- it's about what's right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election.'

Leiberman spoke out yesterday after a meeting attended by Sinclair's corporate news division at company headquarters in Hunt Valley.

'I have nothing to gain here -- and really, I have a lot to lose,' Leiberman told the press. 'At the end of the day, though, all you really have is your credibility.'

Further troubles for Sinclair came today when a Vietnam veteran shown in the documentary criticizing Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activities filed a libel lawsuit against the movie's producer. The suit claims that the film 'Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal' falsely calls the war veteran a fraud and a liar.

Kenneth J. Campbell, a University of Delaware professor, claims that the 'documentary' (made by Carlton Sherwood, who has earned criticism for his personal ties with the Republican Party), combines footage of him at a 1971 war protest with narration that states that many of the supposed veterans who took part in the event were later 'discovered as frauds... (who) never set foot on the battlefield, or left the comfort of the States, or even served in uniform.'

...To these charges, they defend their politically charged broadcast by saying that when news channels show footage of car bomb attacks in Iraq, they are helping to promote John Kerry's presidential campaign. Somehow, it seems as though this logic doesn't help them.

I can't believe someone hasn't made them stop using that "car bombs...help Kerry" line yet. That's about as insensitive as it gets. I'm sure John Kerry fully endorses the idea that people dying in a war that has taken countless lives already would help his cause. Hey, anything to win, right!?

Anyway, this whole thing is getting very big. Advertisers are apparently starting to protest and drop out on Sinclair. I suppose they felt this would blow over easy enough. They probably didn't expect quite the fuss that has come about for just one show. I assume they only announced it to raise interest in the special. Still no word on whether they'll take Mike Moore up on his offer. Some have suggested George Soros step in and purchase time to show "Up The River" or some other pro-Kerry doc, but the fact is, at this point I am beginning to doubt whether Sinclair will air this video at all. That would certainly be the nail in their corporate coffin.

Update: Just saw at TalkingPointsMemo that their stock fell 8% today.
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