David Brock's Letter to Sinclair CEO David Smith on Rolling Stone expose
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Reiterates Demand for Fair and Balanced Commentary
David D. Smith
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
10706 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, Maryland 21030
Dear Mr. Smith:
I'm writing to you regarding the Rolling Stone article about Sinclair Broadcast Group, which was posted online on February 10. In this lengthy feature story, Eric Klinenberg reveals the following about your company:
- Sinclair has refused to sever ties with Armstrong Williams, the columnist and commentator to whom the Bush administration paid nearly a quarter-million dollars to promote its education policy.
- Sinclair regularly puts partisan politics ahead of objective journalism through decisions to censor certain content -- such as its refusal to air on its ABC affiliates an episode of Nightline that showed the names and photographs of American soldiers who had died in Iraq -- and to host forums for right-wing rhetoric without providing any balance or counterpoint.
- Sinclair openly boasts that its broadcasting model allows it to seamlessly inject one-sided national "news" coverage into its local news programs around the country by using local news sets that match those at its "News Central" operation in Maryland, where the national coverage originates.
- Sinclair threatens its employees and has fired staff members for standing up within the company and demanding that its news coverage not be used for political purposes.
Several current and former Sinclair employees are quoted in the article about their experiences at work:
- The producer who edited the interview that the discredited Williams did with former Secretary of Education Rod Paige calls it "the worst piece of TV I've ever been associated with. You've seen softballs from Larry King? Well, this was softer. I told my boss it didn't even deserve to be broadcast, but they kept pushing me to put more of it on tape. In retrospect, it was so clearly propaganda."
- "You weren't reporting news," says one former Sinclair producer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You were reporting a political agenda that came down to you from the top of the food chain."
- After Sinclair announced plans to air the anti-John Kerry "documentary" Stolen Honor two weeks before the November 2004 presidential election, "I had interviews lined up that were canceling left and right, very similar to what happened during the Nightline debacle," says Jon Leiberman, Sinclair's former Washington bureau chief. "And it was becoming impossible -- I'm not exaggerating -- impossible for us to interview any moderate or any Democrat in Washington." Lieberman was fired after making public his belief that Sinclair's plan to air Stolen Honor was "propaganda ... meant to sway the election".
This is the third letter we have sent expressing our concerns about Sinclair's use of its publicly licensed broadcasting assets to promote a partisan political agenda. In December 2004, vice president of corporate relations Mark Hyman compared Sinclair Broadcast Group to MoveOn.org, an advocacy organization. While MoveOn.org and Sinclair's "news" operation do represent opposing sides on many issues, there are two important distinctions that appear lost on Mr. Hyman: Sinclair is a publicly traded company that holds valued public broadcast licenses in dozens of cities across the country, and Sinclair claims to be a news organization, not an advocacy organization.
In light of these revelations about your company, we ask that you provide equal opportunity for a counterpoint to .The Point,. Sinclair.s nightly conservative commentary aired on local news broadcasts.
We await your response and hope that your company makes an effort to prove that Sinclair Broadcast Group is more than a right-wing partisan propaganda machine.
President and CEO
Media Matters for America
- Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.