Some Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. station employees felt burned by the firestorm that erupted over the company’s decision to pre-empt Nightline’s reading of the names of the Iraq war dead.
Vietnam vet and war supporter Senator McCain called the move “un-patriotic.” Free Press, the advocacy group, said it would seek an investigation into Sinclair’s fitness to be a broadcast licensee. Common Cause weighed in against the decision, as did Web media activist Mediachannel.org.
That left some Sinclair broadcasting employees saying, though not for attribution, that the preemption “was not a smart move,” as one put it, and will have the opposite result of that intended by Sinclair corporate execs.
“It’s going to have twice as much publicity and more people are going to watch it than if they just ran it and didn’t say anything,” said one puzzled company insider, though presumably not in most of the markets where Sinclair is yanking it, though not all , as competing stations in some markets agreed to carry it.
One angry Sinclair staffer said the move, “mirrors what the Bush Administration did in Iraq—a preemptive strike without having any idea what’s going to happen for the next year.”
Meanwhile, Sinclair stations and corporate headquarters in Hunt Valley, MD, were bombarded with calls last Friday, which one insider said were running “mostly negative,” about the company’s decision to pre-empt the broadcast.
The TV and radio talk shows were all over the issue and were reading Sinclair phone numbers on the air so people could call. Howard Stern urged callers to complain to the broadcaster about what he said was a bad decision.
“It’s pure testosterone. They didn’t think it through,” said one Sinclair station manager.”
At deadline, Sinclair was still planning the preemption. Spokesman Mark Hyman had not commented by deadline.