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Sinclair will not air entire anti-Kerry film

Sinclair Broadcast will not widely broadcast in its entirety a documentary critical of John Kerry’s anti-war activities, and plans to show only parts of the 42-minute film incorporated in a special, the company said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sinclair Broadcasting will not widely broadcast in its entirety a documentary critical of John Kerry’s anti-war activities, and plans to show only parts of the 42-minute film incorporated in a special, the company said.

Parts of the film “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” will be shown during a program examining the use of documentaries to influence elections, Sinclair said Tuesday.

Its announcement came hours after shareholders challenged Sinclair’s plans to air the program, saying the controversial broadcast may hurt their investment.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., the owner of 62 television stations, has been criticized for ordering the stations to pre-empt regular programming to air the show. The company, which has previously declined comment on the issue, said reports that the documentary would be aired in its entirety were “inaccurate.”

“A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media,” will examine the “role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage,” the company said in a statement. It will air Friday on 40 of the company’s stations.

Fired reporter
Sinclair fired its Washington bureau chief Monday after he publicly criticized the company’s plans.

“We have not ceded, and will not in the future cede, control of our news reporting to any outside organization or political group,” said Joe DeFeo, Sinclair’s vice president of news.

The Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing that the broadcast should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign.

Groups have also called for advertisers to boycott Sinclair, whose stations reach a quarter of U.S. households, many in key swing states for the upcoming presidential election.

“The experience of preparing to air this news special has been trying for many of those involved,” CEO David Smith said. “The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock.”

Sinclair met with Kerry officials
Sinclair said executives met recently with senior Kerry campaign officials but the campaign has declined to participate in the program.

Meanwhile, a lawyer said he planned to sue on behalf of shareholders, alleging insider trading by top executives as well as damage from the decision to air the film. Media Matters, a media advocacy group, announced it was underwriting the costs of a shareholder action demanding equal time for opposing views.

Eighteen senators, all Democrats, wrote last week to the Federal Communications Commission to ask it to investigate Sinclair’s plans. The agency declined to intervene.

New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi, also a Democrat, sent a letter expressing concern to Sinclair on behalf of the state’s pension fund, which owns shares in the broadcasting company.

Sinclair shares dropped more than 3 percent Tuesday, falling 23 cents to $6.26 a share on the NASDAQ market. Sinclair stock dropped about 8 percent on Monday, and is down from a high of more than $15 a share in January.

Two groups offered programs Tuesday to Sinclair to air in response to its news special. California philanthropist Deborah Rappaport and her husband offered to pay for an hour of air time on Sinclair stations to air the documentary “Going Upriver,” a positive portrayal of Kerry’s service in Vietnam, before the Nov. 2 election day.

Mother Jones Magazine offered Sinclair a half-hour video of four prominent Republicans — including John Dean and Pete Peterson — condemning the Bush administration.