Sinclair to MoveOn: 'You First' - Broadcasting & Cable

Sinclair to MoveOn: 'You First'

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Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. commentator Mark Hyman has an answer for the media activists trying to pressure Sinclair into airing counterpoints to his daily "The Point" commentaries, which air on most of Sinclair's 62 TV stations.

"As soon as MoveOn.org allows me to use their e-mail lists and post to their Web site, maybe then we will have a conversation," he told B&C.

Led by Media Matters for America, MoveOn, MediaChannel.org, Free Press and other anti-consolidation activists Monday announced a campaign to protest Hyman's nightly news and commentary segment, in which they argue he consistently espouses "one-sided, conservative rhetoric without any counterpoint."

The groups have written Sinclair CEO David D. Smith, and Sinclair advertisers including Kraft, Target, Staples, Sprint, McDonald's, and GEICO, asking them to "work together in good faith to ensure responsible news programming in the public interest."

The activists argue that Sinclair is misusing the airwaves. Hyman counters that it is "just public discourse" and that his commentaries deal with a range of issues, like say the periodic failure of Congress to pass appropriations bills in a timely fashion.

He also says that if the groups are concerned about public service, "I would feel better if they were writing letters to our troops in Iraq. There are 168 programming hours on our stations every week and I am on for 10 to 15 minutes," he says, "It seems their priorities are a little skewed."

Sinclair has been on the groups' radar screen for some time, including for its centralcasting news operation, its size--62 stations--and ownership structure, and more recently for preempting a Nightline special on the roll-call of U.S. Iraqi war dead and a decision to air a special just before the presidential election that dealt with a documentary critical of John Kerry's Vietnam War record.

In the wake of that special, and even before it aired, some activists and Democratic legislators, asked the FCC to pass judgment on Sinclair's proposed airing. The FCC declined, pointing out that would be prior restraint.

Also in response to the Sinclair special on Kerry, several groups, including Common Cause and the Media Access Project, have asked the FCC to reinstate its personal attack and editorializing rules, as well as the overarching fairness doctrine.

The rules, which were opposed by both the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association, required broadcasters to provide airtime for respondents to political editorials or personal attacks.

The doctrine, scrapped in 1987 under Republican FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick, required staitons to air both sides of controversial issues.

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