Too generous …I had

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Too generous …

I had been thinking about a post that would put in stark terms what is going on with this Sinclair Broadcasting stunt, noting how it amounts to a massive in-kind contribution from Sinclair to the Bush-Cheney campaign to pay for the broadcast of an hourlong Swift Boat ad (“Stolen Honor“) smack down in the middle of primetime broadcasting on local network television channels across the country. After all, it’s the same basic material and it even includes several of the same aggrieved veterans.

But like I said, too generous. It isn’t like a Swift Boat ad. It actually is a Swift Boat ad.

A perspicacious TPM reader (JJG) notes that a September 29th press release on the ‘Stolen Honor’ website announced that ‘POWs for Truth’, the sponsor of the ‘documentary’, was merging with ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’ to form the new consolidated group ‘Swift Vets and POWs For Truth.’

If it weren’t so disgusting, it would almost be funny.

So the Swift Boat folks are hawking a ‘documentary’ put together by a guy who has specialized for the last fifteen years or so in made-to-order investigations for various right-wing outfits like Rev. Moon. Sinclair orders their 62 network affiliates to run the thing in prime time days before the election. And they give the Swift Boat folks the ad time for free on the premise that they’re running it as news programming.

Unlike cable programming, local broadcast licenses aren’t ‘owned’ — courts have always been clear on this. The right to broadcast over a given slice of spectrum is public property on loan to the broadcaster in exchange for providing programming in the public interest. This move is but a paler version of the de-democratization we’re now seeing in Russia as the standing government asserts increasing control over a nominally independent media.

It’s not a ‘fairness’ or a free speech issue. It’s a massive and quite public case of election and campaign finance fraud.

It’s the sort of thing that, if it happens, will put the legitimacy of the entire election into doubt.

Welcome to the world of Rove.

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