James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Act on this today -- please

A Sinclair Broadcasting Group, owner of 62 publicly-licensed television stations around the country, is about to make an incalculably large contribution to the Bush campaign.

The contribution breaks all kinds of rules, and probably some laws, but it looks now like the right-wing broadcaster is going to get away with it. The public might be able to stop this outrageous action, however, by leaning heavily on members of Congress.

Here’s the deal:

Sinclair intends to air on all of its stations a phony, right-wing attack on John Kerry a few days before the election. The program is a phony documentary – much of it is sheer fiction according to many people who have seen and analyzed it – attacking Kerry for his antiwar activities after he returned from Vietnam. It calls Kerry a traitor.

The broadcast will preempt regular programming on all Sinclair stations, including several in supposed swing states.

Sinclair, by the by, is the organization that refused to let its ABC-affiliated stations carry the "Nightline" broadcast that consisted entirely of a reading of the names of Americans who had died, up to that point, in the Iraq war. Sinclair said the broadcast was "politically partisan."

Broadcasting the right-wing screed now will violate several laws and rules of both the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. Sinclair is defending its plans by calling the extreme partisan program a "news program" though, of course, it has nothing to do with any news, was produced and paid for by a right-wing partisan organization.

The broadcast is, in effect, a "contribution in kind" to the Bush campaign -- just like providing the campaign with free transportation, hotel rooms, food and such, but much more effective.

Left to itself the FEC won’t act until after the election, if at all, and the FCC is effectively run by Michael Powell, an adherent of the Bush crowd who can be relied upon to look the other way.

Our elected representatives often forget, or choose to forget, that the airwaves belong to the public, and that broadcasters are licensed and under law may use the airwaves so long as they adhere to all the rules, which include public service and avoidance of any political partisanship.

We must – now! – demand that our Congressional representatives of both parties stand up and demand that the FEC and FCC act now to halt Sinclair’s unfair use of their licenses on behalf of the Bush campaign.

Pick up the telephone today and call your representatives and Senators. Please. It may be the most important thing you do during this election cycle.