I was not able to see the documentary (“A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media“) that Sinclair Broadcasting ran yesterday evening. But contrary to my (I believe well-founded) skepticism, the piece was apparently relatively even-handed. A sampling of comments from a number of right-wing sites suggests they thought Sinclair caved. And this exhaustive summary/commentary of the program from DailyKos makes it sound like the final product was — hard as it is for me to believe — relatively even-handed. It even included, it seems, some significant portions of Going Upriver, the Kerry-friendly documentary now in theaters.
Now, Sinclair will undoubtedly try to make out like that got a bum rap all along, like they’d planned to be fair and balanced, shall we say, from the get-go.
But that is, in a word, crap.
Sinclair planned to use their hold over airwaves around the country to turn an hour of prime-time broadcast time over to an anti-Kerry informercial put together by a group that has now merged with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. My sense was always that they knew they’d take some hit but were willing to take it in part because of their ideological stance but even more because they thought they’d be made whole through (de)regulatory payback after a Bush victory.
But they got more than they bargained for. A lot more.
Thousands of individuals across the country started organizing a boycott of Sinclair’s local advertisers — the heart of their business. And the stock price commenced a rapid descent. I don’t have at my fingertips the precise numbers. But I think the company lost something like $100 million in market capitalization, or 20% of the stocks value, in little more than a week. (ed.note: please check other sources for exact amounts).
This was then compounded by a cluster of inter-related lawsuits, which would not have been possible had it not been for the predicate created by the boycott and the related stock price drop.
Eventually, Sinclair saw the writing on the wall — penciled in by major institutional shareholders, I suspect — and cried ‘uncle.’ It was all quite a feat, seeing as it mixed together the actions of policy luminaries like former FCC Chair Reed Hundt, existing activist groups like Media Matters, the absolutely invaluable work that went into the Sinclair Boycott website and mainly an army of political junkies around the country who didn’t want to see this election gamed by a gaggle of jokers in Maryland who thought they could trifle with American democracy with impunity.