Reed Hundt responds <$NoAd$>...
Now we see that Sinclair is not going to run the smear "documentary" after all. Instead they are going to run something they label as news, but which according to its current description is transparently another criticism of the Kerry campaign. What are we to make of this new tactic?
First, by backing away from their previous plan, Sinclair is effectively admitting either that their advertisers want them to maintain the broadcaster tradition of providing balanced and neutrail coverage of elections ( because without that advertisers risk viewer unhappiness being directed at the advertisers), or that Sinclair in fact may face many regulatory problems in the event that it violates that tradition. That much at least is progress toward some recognition of reality at Sinclair.
Second, Sinclair calling their proposed new show news does not make it news. What in fact one may think of their broadcast can and should be judged after the fact. But since Sinclair's relationship to objectivity, as reflected in its press statements, is rather attenuated, one should suppose that Sinclair's new show may well be judged just as much a smear as the so-called documentary they apparently will no longer run. As a result, advertisers have just as much ground to be wary, and the FCC just as much basis to do its duty, and Sinclair just as much reason to feel the opprobrium of an aroused public, as was the case before this current and suspicious effort to disguise the true intentions of Sinclair.
Third, the chairman of the FCC and his White House friends have nothing to be proud of in this embroglio, but perhaps the American people can be happy that notwithstanding his implicit endorsement of the Sinclair smear, at least in the first round the public has stood up to Sinclair's unfairness with some steadfastness and coordinated purpose. On the other hand, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, two Democratic commissioners at the FCC, have expressed themselves forcefully on the issue of balance and fairness. The next step either for commissioners or the Chairman, if he were to come to a realization of his duties, would be to investigate immediately the applicability of equal time obligations. This must be done in a hurry, so that if the Kerry campaign were granted equal time, that time would come before, rather than after (!) the election. If the Chairman won't act, then the commissioners should and could investigate without him, and make public their own conclusions about equal time. Of course, equal time for the Kerry campaign to reach the public served by the Sinclair use of the public's airwaves is not only a matter of specific regulation but also an ethical and cultural value to which any public official is empowered to speak.
former FCC chairman (1993-97)
P.S. The news director at Sinclair quitting is not a back page story; or it should not have been. It is telling, even conclusive evidence, of the difference between a fair culture of news reporting and the culture at Sinclair. More material for investigation.