Nightline's Tribute to the U.S. Troops and Sinclair's Ban of Show

Following up on TChris's earlier post on Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision not to air Nightline tonight, we also urge you to read American Progress Report:

Tonight, ABC's "Nightline" will pay tribute to U.S. troops killed in Iraq by airing a 40 minute special – the names of the fallen will be read by anchor Ted Koppel as their photographs appear on screen. But Sinclair Broadcast Group – the country's largest owner of TV stations – will not allow its ABC affiliates to air the show. In a statement, Sinclair claims the special "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." While Sinclair claims it is pre-empting Nightline because it is an attempt to "influence public opinion," the record shows that Sinclair media has repeatedly leveraged its control over the airwaves to manipulate public opinion in favor of President Bush's right-wing agenda.

SINCLAIR REQUIRES JOURNALISTS TO READ PRO-BUSH STATEMENTS: In September 2001, Sinclair Broadcasting required its affiliates to air messages "conveying full support" for the Bush administration. At a Baltimore affiliate, WBFF "officials required news and sports anchors, even a weather forecaster, to read the messages, "which included statements such as "[the station] wants you to know that we stand 100% behind our President." Several WBFF staffers objected on the grounds that reading the statements would "erode their reputations as objective journalists" because it made them appear to be "endorsing specific government actions."

SINCLAIR REFUSES TO AIR AD HIGHLIGHTING 2003 BUSH ERROR: In July 2003, Sinclair Broadcasting refused to allow WMSN TV – its FOX affiliate in Madison, WI – to air a DNC advertisement that featured a clip of President Bush making the false claim "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" in his 2003 State of the Union Address. Three other Madison stations, including ABC, NBC and CBS, readily agreed to air the ad. The Madison CBS affiliate, WISC, said the advertisement was "no worse than any other political ad."

SINCLAIR PRODUCES CENTRALIZED RIGHT-WING CONTENT FOR 'LOCAL STATIONS': In a controversial business practice, Sinclair Broadcasting has fired much of the staff for the local affiliates it owns, instead producing content for its local stations from a central facility outside Baltimore which it then airs on "local" news broadcasts. The centralized content features nightly commentary by Sinclair corporate communications chief Mark Hyman. Hyman regularly refers to the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," the so-called liberal media as the "hate-America crowd," and progressives as "the lonely left" On one recent commentary, Hyman called members of Congress who voted against a recent resolution affirming the righteousness of the Iraq war "unpatriotic politicians who hate our military." You can see all of Hyman's commentaries this month HERE. (Read more from American Progress about the problems of media consolidation.)

....WOLFOWITZ NEEDS TO WATCH NIGHTLINE TONIGHT: One person who should be sure to tune into Nightline: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Appearing yesterday before a congressional committee, Wolfowitz was asked how many soldiers had died in Iraq. Revealing a shocking insensitivity about the extent of the casualties in Iraq in the highest reaches of the Pentagon, Wolfowitz replied "It's approximately 500, of which - I can get the exact numbers - approximately 350 are combat deaths." In fact, 722 American troops have died during operations in Iraq – 521 from combat.

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