October 23, 2004

And The Verdict Is...

Sinclair was reasonably balanced in its news special last night. Unless, of course, you are a political hack directly associated with the Kerry campaign.
After the program, Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton called it "a premeditated smear" that obscured "the plain truth -- John Kerry was a war hero who was decorated for bravery." Referring to Sinclair's top executives, he said: "It's not surprising that these guys who have given all this money to the Bush campaign did what they did."

But spokesmen for several liberal and public policy groups said in a conference call that the program was far better than they had been led to expect and that they saw no reason to support earlier Democratic demands for equal time. "In general, it appears Sinclair listened to the American people," said Gene Kimmelman, Washington director of Consumers Union. "Sinclair certainly was acting like a broadcaster should tonight."

I didn't get to see the broadcast, since I don't live in one of the markets where Sinclair broadcasts. But media reports indicate it was fair and balanced -- or at least as fair and balanced as CBS News or ABC News reports are. And I still wish that Sinclair would have broadcast the entire Sherwood documentary. It would have been equal time to all the biased "Kerry was a war hero and Bush was AWOL" nonsense put out by the mainstream media. Stolen Honor (SEE IT HERE)wouldn't have needed equal time -- it would have BEEN equal time.

I sent the following to both the FCC and the FEC this morning.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....

Dear Commissioners,

I open my letter with the above as a reminder of the Constitutional imperative at stake in the Sinclair Broadcasting Group controversy. Congress (and by extension its creations, such as the FCC and FEC) have no business restricting political or journalistic speech. In light of this clear directive of one of our founding documents, I urge you to reject any and all complaints leveled against Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Let us examine the content of Sinclair's special, broadcast in each of their markets yesterday. It contained approximately 5 minutes of Stolen Honor, an anti-Kerry documentary made independently of the Bush campaign. But that was balanced by slightly less than 5 minutes of Going Upriver, a pro-Kerry documentary made by individuals associated with the Kerry campaign. Portions of the broadcast discussed journalistic ethics and disparate coverage of the Vietnam-era records of the two candidates. Sinclair offered the Kerry camp the opportunity to be represented by either the candidate or a surrogate, but that offer was declined. By any standard, SInclair met standards of objectivity -- even though the tradition of American journalism dating back to the founding of the Republic is for the press to be a partisan force (hence newspapers around the country named for various political parties -- Federalist, Whig, Democrat, Republican). What was broadcast by Sinclair was clearly a news program, and therefore beyond the reach of the FCC under the First Amendment.

Yet let us presume for a moment that the special fell outside the boundaries of news, and that it was actually an unpaid political speech requiring equal time. Such an analysis is equally flawed in a Constitutional sense. Americans are not required to give equal time to speech antithetical to their own beliefs. And in light of the continuing media attacks upon the President's Vietnam-era service record, and the focus on John Kerry's alleged "war hero" status, it can be reasonably argued that the Sinclair broadcast constituted "equal time" to balance off the conventional wisdom as propagated by the media. Even a broadcast of Stolen Honor in its unedited entirety would not have outweighed the last several months (or years, in the case of attacks on George Bush's service record) of coverage slanted to give advantage to the Democrats. There is no need to give equal time (as the Kerry campaign requests), as the Sinclair special IS equal time.

In closing, this American urges you to do your duty as government official, and to act to uphold the supreme law of the land -- the US Constitution. Any law, rule, regulation, administrative decision, or court opinion to the contrary is null and void if it is in conflict with the clear meaning of that charter which authorized and frames the federal government. Abide by the terms of your oaths of office, and reject each and every attempt to punish Sinclair Broadcasting Group and its stations for engaging in what the Founding Fathers would have unambiguously viewed as speech protected by the First Amendment.

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