What Liberal Media?

Now on CNN.com:

Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of the largest group of television stations in the nation, plans to air a documentary that accuses Sen. John Kerry of betraying American prisoners during the Vietnam War, a newspaper reported Monday.

This story is bigger than it looks, and I almost let it slip by without mention because I couldn’t fully address it. But ignoring it won’t make it go away, so…. For now,let me just say that this story connects to the big picture along these lines:

  • Media considation, hegemony
  • Campaign finance reform
  • Free speech vs. commercial speech vs. political speech vs. propaganda
  • What liberal media?

Media consolidation began in the late 1990s when the FCC relaxed rules on ownership. As soon as they were allowed, media giants started doing just what the rules had prevented: buying and consolidating radio and television stations, newspapers, even billboard companies. One result is this:

Sinclair’s television group, which includes affiliates of all the major networks, reaches nearly a quarter of all U.S. television households, according to the company’s Web site. A dozen of Sinclair’s stations are in the critical swing states of Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act was supposed to make it more difficult for money-rich interests to control elections. Robert Bryce’s Cronies has one of the best explanations of how money perverts politics in its description of the savings and loan fiasco of the 1980s and 1990s. The conclusion, in short, is that money = media = votes, even when the money and media don’t have the voters best interests at heart.

Sinclair has ordered all 62 of its stations to air “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal” without commercials in prime-time next week, the Washington Post reported, just two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

Note the “without commercials” part. The DNC has reportedly filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission saying “it is inappropriate for the Sinclair Broadcasting Group to air partisan propaganda in the last 10 days of an election campaign.”

Meanwhile, according to Media Matters for America, Sinclair’s action “could constitute a violation of broadcast regulations requiring equal time for political candidates, as well as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the group said.”

And the partisan interests, at least of the executives, could not be more clear. The CNN story reports that:

Sinclair executives have shown support for the Bush campaign. Sinclair CEO David Smith contributed the legal limit of $2,000 Bush-Cheney 2004, and vice president Frederick Smith gave $175,000 to the RNC and maxed out his Bush-Cheney contribution.

FEC records show that two other top level Sinclair executives gave the maximum amount they could to Bush-Cheney.

Sinclair executives have given nearly $68,000 in political contributions, 97 percent of it going to Republicans, since the beginning of the year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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