Monday, October 11, 2004

Take Sinclair Some Trouble

By now you’ve heard about Sinclair Broadcasting’s plan to air an anti-Kerry film on all of their stations sometime in the next couple of weeks. (Sinclair, you will remember, is the media company that refused to air ABC’s Nightline episode last spring memorializing the dead American soldiers in Iraq, and their CEO is a big Bush backer.) So how do we raise a stink? Check out this blueprint from The Left Coaster.

The usual way to lean on broadcasters is to arrange boycotts of them or pressure their advertisers, as Chris [Bowers] indicated in his piece on MyDD, and this is already being worked on. There are groups out there with experience in holding the media accountable, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Alliance for Better Campaigns. They could be brought in to coordinate a national letter writing campaign to the FCC that may make a dent before the election, as would any protests and boycotts locally at each station to get media coverage in the week before the election to show that the station is nothing more than a partisan front for the Bush campaign.

But what isn’t done a lot which requires the broadcaster to rack up expensive legal fees, is to challenge every one of their affiliates’ FCC license renewals as they come up this year and next.

The FCC rules state that anyone who has an interest, presumably a local interest, in the renewal of a TV license may file either an informal objection or a more formal petition that must meet specific requirements. Note that Petitions to Deny are required to be filed with the FCC one month in advance of the station’s license expiration date. According to the FCC’s schedule of station expiration dates by state, any move to file Petitions to Deny or objections in advance of the station’s license expiration date are already too late to be accepted for Sinclair stations in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia, as the expiration date has passed and the file has closed. However, note that there still is time to organize and file Petitions or objections by November 1, 2004 for Sinclair stations in North Carolina and South Carolina, and for Florida by January 1, 2005.

Sounds like a plan. There are plenty of bloggers in the affected (or is it afflicted?) markets, and if they rally the troops, we can make a difference. It’s payback time.