Pro-Kerry Vets Group Demands Equal Time

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The Veterans Institute for Security and Democracy said Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. should not force any of its 62 stations to air a documentary criticizing John Kerry’s Vietnam War protests, and it is demanding that any station that airs it give equal time for a film lauding his military service in Vietnam.

A liberal-leaning veterans group says Sinclair Broadcasting should not force any of its 62 stations to air a documentary criticizing John Kerry’s Vietnam War protests. In addition to making the broadcast voluntary, the group is demanding that any Sinclair station that airs the program give equal time for a film lauding his military service in Vietnam.

The Veterans Institute for Security and Democracy, which labels itself nonpartisan but includes retired senior officers with ties to the Kerry campaign, says Sinclair’s plan to air all or part of anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal on its stations this week would be a threat to democratic values if not followed up with programming that presents the other point of view.

“Fair use of the airwaves is essential to the democratic process,” wrote retired Air Force Col. Richard Klass, president of the institute, “and partisan use by a broadcaster without presenting both sides or a contending view is unfair, undemocratic and un-American.” Sinclair should ensure that any station airing Stolen Honor should also broadcast a similar-length version of Going up River in the same timeslot within two days. If Stolen Honor is paid programming funded by a sponsor, then Going up River should have the opportunity to pay a similar rate, as long as the price is within normal commercial range.

Airing of the programs should be followed by a “balanced” panel discussion among Vietnam veterans, Klass insisted in a letter to Sinclair CEO David Smith. Klass previously has criticized President Bush’s National Guard Service at press conferences sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.

As of deadline Monday, Sinclair had not responded to the requests. The institute said it will file an FCC request for equal time if Sinclair does not honor the request. It would be filed by the institute’s Washington lawyers, Erwin Krasnow and John Crigler, of the firm Garvey Schubert Barer.

Sinclair Broadcasting has generated controversy over its plans to air all or part of the film. The documentary charges that Kerry’s protests against the Vietnam War in the 1970s were used by the North Vietnamese as propaganda to demoralize U.S. POWs. Amid the uproar, Democratic Party officials have called for an investigation by the Federal Election Commission. Democratic lawmakers demanded the FCC investigate whether Sinclair, the largest station group in the country, is meeting its public-interest obligations.

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