Sinclair Broadcast Group refuses to broadcast Nightline episode on fallen soldiers

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On Friday, April 30, 2004, ABC News extended Ted Koppel's 'Nightline' program to 40 minutes to air The Fallen, during which Koppel read the names of "more than 700 U.S. servicemen and women killed in action" in Operation Iraqi Freedom. [1]

The following is an overview regarding the media control which was exercised by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. in boycotting the airing of Koppel's The Fallen on its affiliates.

The Controversy: Nightline's The Fallen

  • "ABC newsman Ted Koppel's plan to devote [the Friday, April 30th] 'Nightline' to reading the names of the more than 700 U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq has stirred anger and praise, and prompted one media company to bar its stations from airing the program.
"Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group said Thursday that the unique program is politically motivated and ordered its seven ABC affiliates ... not to air it." Hartford Courant, April 29, 2004.
"The ABC Television Network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30 edition of 'Nightline' will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show, the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.
"There is no organization that holds the members of our military and those soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in service of our country in higher regard than Sinclair Broadcast Group. While Sinclair would support an honest effort to honor the memory of these brave soldiers, we do not believe that is what 'Nightline' is doing. Rather, Mr. Koppel and 'Nightline' are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq. Based on published reports, we are aware of the spouse of one soldier who died in Iraq who opposes the reading of her husband's name to oppose our military action. We suspect she is not alone in this viewpoint. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of 'Nightline' this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.
"We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, we believe you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday. Unfortunately, we may never know for sure because Mr. Koppel has refused repeated requests from Sinclair's News Central news organization to comment on this Friday's program."
"We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to pre-empt Nightline's tribute to America's fallen soldiers which will air this Friday, April 30. The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country. ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with neither fear nor favor -- as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands. Contrary to the statement issued by Sinclair, which takes issue with our level of coverage of the effects of terrorism on our citizens, ABC News and all of our broadcasts, including 'Nightline', have reported hundreds of stories on 9-11. Indeed, on the first anniversary of 9-11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims of that horrific attack. In sum, we are particularly proud of the journalism and award winning coverage ABC News has produced since September 11, 2001. ABC News will continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which ABC News has set for decades."
  • The list of the names of the "servicemen and women who will be honored on Friday's 'Nightline' ... organized alphabetically by state and includes those whose names have been released by the Pentagon since March 19, 2003. Names released between now and Friday April 30, will be added to the broadcast." Also "'Nightline' reading list of fallen troops," Chicago Sun-Times, April 30, 2004.



Blatant Partisan Politics

"LOS ANGELES The Los Angeles Times reports that a broadcast group has ordered its TV stations around the country to air an anti-John Kerry film days before the election."

"Sinclair Broadcast Group owns or programs content for stations in 62 markets, including several swing states."

"The Times says it has ordered stations to run "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal." The documentary features former P-O-Ws blaming Kerry's anti-Vietnam War efforts for prolonging their plight."

"Sinclair gained attention in April when it refused to air a "Nightline" segment on seven stations. In the segment, Ted Koppel read the names of U-S soldiers killed in Iraq. Sinclair called it a political statement disguised as news." Broadcast group to air anti-Kerry film on eve of election

BBC News - 11 October 2004 - Anti-Kerry film ignites new row:

"The Sinclair TV Group, whose executives have given tens of thousands of dollars to President George W Bush's re-election campaign, have revealed plans to show the film later this month, followed by a panel discussion to which they say Senator Kerry will be invited."


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