Activists Take Aim at Sinclair Licenses

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The uproar over Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.’s plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary is one more episode in a string of incidents that have liberal media activists riled.

One organization said Monday that it plans to challenge the Baltimore-based station group’s licenses as they come up for renewal over the next few years.

As the Democratic Party was putting finishing touches Monday on a Federal Election Commission complaint about the broadcast, Free Press called on the federal government to crack down on the company during the renewal process for a variety of perceived transgressions.

The activist group is releasing a report charging Sinclair with business practices that are “reprehensible at best and illegal at worst,” and it has created a Web site (www.sinclairwatch.org) to chronicle the alleged transgressions.

Free Press is particularly galled that Sinclair has been able to string together more than 60 stations in 39 markets -- the largest TV group in the country in terms of stations it controls. By reaching so many American households, Sinclair can have an outsized opportunity to spread its views around the country, activists said.

Also, Free Press said Sinclair appears to be illegally dictating programming schedules for five stations owned by Cunningham Broadcasting that Sinclair manages under local marketing agreements. Under LMAs, the managing partner runs advertising and operational functions but leaves the station’s programming decisions to the owner.

And Free Press criticized Sinclair’s news “centralcasting,” which distributes news reports from regional and national hubs to local stations. Executive director Josh Silver said, “Sinclair’s complete lack of journalistic principles and lack of respect for the public interest shows why consolidation of media ownership poses the greatest threat to our democracy.”

The criticism of Sinclair has at least gained the attention of Democratic Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps, who has criticized the company and his colleagues for turning a blind eye to consolidation.

“It is proof positive of media consolidation run amok when one owner can use the public airwaves to blanket the country with its political ideology -- whether liberal or conservative,” he said Monday. “Sinclair and the FCC are taking us down a dangerous road.”

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