Sinclair Hijacks the Airwaves for Political Gain

Lost in the media frenzy of last Tuesday’s elections was one broadcaster’s 11th-hour attempt to bias voters against President Barack Obama.

Just hours before Americans went to the polls on Tuesday, Sinclair Broadcast Group — which owns more than 70 TV stations nationwide — forced newscasters in battleground states to air a “special” that attacked President Obama’s positions on health care, jobs and foreign policy.

This isn’t the first time Sinclair has resorted to dirty tricks to try to sway voters. Two weeks before the 2004 election, it forced nearly all of its stations to air Stolen Honor, a documentary that aimed to discredit the military service of then-presidential candidate John Kerry.

And months before that Sinclair refused to air an ABC News Nightline segment during which the anchor read the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq. Instead, Sinclair patched together a special debate promoting the merits of going to war in Iraq.

Last week, Sinclair forced its news stations in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio to air the half-hour anti-Obama program the night before Election Day. The segment quoted several people who criticized the president’s policies and presented no negative commentary on Obama’s challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney.

It was so bad that an anchor at ABC affiliate WSYX in Columbus, Ohio, later tweeted that the station was required to run the program. “I didn’t have a choice, dude,” anchor Yolanda Harris replied to a critic on Twitter. “I guess you’re the better person. I need my job.”

Sinclair’s actions show what happens when you let one company abuse its license to use the public airwaves. And it comes at a time when the Federal Communications Commission is considering opening the door to even more media consolidation. By year’s end, the agency will vote on a proposal to lift cross-ownership rules. If the proposal passes, companies like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. will be allowed to own multiple television and newspaper outlets in a single city.

By taking action against Sinclair, you’re telling this media giant and other broadcast conglomerates that it’s not okay to hijack the public airwaves for political gain.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good