Sinclair Broadcast Group refuses to broadcast Nightline episode on fallen soldiers
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. 
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."
- ABC News' Statement, April 29, 2004:
- "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."
- "ABC 'Nightline' host Ted Koppel says he's 'surprised' anyone would think his special, The Fallen, is a ratings ploy or a political statement of some sort." "Protein Wisdom Interview," April 30, 2004.
- 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."
About Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
- Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., web page; Contact Info: 10706 Beaver Dam Road Hunt Valley, MD 21030; Telephone: (410) 568-1500 / Fax: (410) 568-1533 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The CEO's name is David D. Smith.
- "Donor: Sinclair Broadcast / Recipient: George W. Bush / Cycle(s) selected: 2004, 2002, 2000: $16,550, Open Secrets.
- Wes Vernon, "Sinclair, The Next Fox, 'Fair and Balanced'," NewsMax, January 29, 2004.
- William Hughes, "Sinclair TV: 'Good News' Stories About Iraq?," Baltimore Chronicle, April 17, 2004.
- Paul Schmelzer, "The Death of Local News," AlterNet, April 23, 2004.
- Al Tompkins, "Inside the Decision to Feature 'The Fallen'," Poynter Online, April 27, 2004; updated April 29, 2004.
- Richard Huff, "Ted taps war's toll. A 'Nightline' devoted to Iraq dead," New York Daily News, April 28, 2004.
- Bill Carter, "'Nightline' to Read Off Iraq War Dead," New York Times, April 28, 2004.
- "TV roll-call of US dead in Iraq," BBC/UK, April 28, 2004.
- Al Tompkins, "Koppel Defends 'The Fallen'. 'Nightline' anchor expresses his surprise at the reaction to Friday's show and explains its genesis and purpose. Friday evening update: ABC breaks the boycott in at least five Sinclair cities," Poynter Online, April 29, 2004.
- Danny Schechter, "Is Nightline Taking The Right Line?," Media Channel, April 29, 2004.
- Russ Rizzo, "Local ABC affiliate pulls plug on 'Nightline' special," News Record, April 29, 2004.
- Liz Halloran, "`Nightline' divides audience," Hartford Courant, April 29, 2004.
- Timothy Karr, "Broadcaster's Own 'Political Agenda' Plays Part in Nightline Snub," Media Channel, April 29, 2004.
- Paul Waldman, "Putting the Kibosh on Koppel," The Gadflyer, April 29, 2004.
- "The protein wisdom interview: Ted Koppel," celluloid-wisdom.com, April 30, 2004.
- Harry Jaffe, "ABC Makes End Run Around Conservative Blackout of Nightline," The Washingtonian, April 30, 2004.
- Lisa de Moraes, "Stations to Boycott 'Nightline's' List of the Fallen," Washington Post, April 30, 2004.
- Al Tompkins, "ABC Breaks Through Nightline Blackout," Poynter Online, April 30, 2004.
- "'Nightline' To Air On ONN," Ohio News Network, April 30, 2004.
- Dan Gillmor, "Right-Leaning Media Barons Black Out ABC's Airing of War Dead," Silicon Valley .com, April 30, 2004.
- Bill Carter, "Some Stations to Block 'Nightline' War Tribute," New York Times, April 30, 2004.
- David Folkenflik, "Sinclair stations won't air 'Nightline'," Baltimore Sun, April 30, 2004.
- Patrick Barrett, "US TV blackout hits litany of war dead," Guardian/UK, April 30, 2004.
- Ted Koppel, Letter to Washington Post: "Not a Ratings Stunt," April 30, 2004, in response to Lisa de Moraes' "On 'Nightline,' a Grim Sweeps Roll Call," Washington Post, April 28, 2004.
- Lynn Elber, "'Nightline' War Dead List Causes Uproar," AP, April 30, 2004.
- Paul Waldman, "More on Sinclair Broadcasting," The Gadflyer, April 30, 2004.
- "Sinclair's Cynical Agenda," Center for American Progress, April 30, 2004.
- Action Alert: "What Sinclair Doesn't Want You to See on Nightline," FAIR, April 30, 2004.
- "Uproar over 'Nightline' war casualties list grows. McCain chastises TV station group for not airing show," AP, April 30, 2004.
- Keven Drum, "War Deaths," Political Animal, April 30, 2004.
- Josh Grossberg, "The 'Nightline' Photo Flap," E Online, April 30, 2004.
- "McCain rebukes Sinclair 'Nightline' decision. Station owner orders affiliates not to air program," CNN, April 30, 2004.
- Senator John McCain (R-AZ):
- McCain quote: "McCain Calls 'Nightline' Pre-Emption 'Unpatriotic'," tvweek.com, April 30, 2004.
- "McCain to Sinclair: I protest your decision," poynter.org, April 30, 2004.
- U.S. Senator John McCain Press Release: "McCain Letter to Sinclair Broadcast on Preemption of Nightline," April 30, 2004.
- David D. Smith, Letter: "Sinclair Responds to Senator McCain," sbgi.net, April 30, 2004.
- Photographs for Ted Koppel's 'Nightline' program "The Fallen" were supplied by "Military City .com".
- 'Nightline' Feedback form.
- Lots more links and info at Atrios blog site: "About Sinclair" and "Republican Values."
- "Take Back the Media" Action Alert: "Boycott Any and All Sponsors of Sinclair."
- "Hiding the Toll of War AGAIN: Iraq War Casualty Families Call for Immediate Reversal of Sinclair Decision to Block Airing of Nightline Program Military Families Available for Interview," Military Families Speak Out, April 29, 2004.
- Deborah Zabarenko, "Iraq Torture Images Vie with Photos of U.S. War Dead," Reuters, April 30, 2004: "Images of naked Iraqi prisoners, piled in a pyramid before grinning U.S. soldiers, shocked the world but they were supplanted in American media on Friday by pictures of military casualties at the end of the war's deadliest month."
- Kevin Diaz, "Senator seeks probe of broadcaster who won't air 'Nightline'," Beaufort Gazette, April 30, 2004: "In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., said Sinclair's action 'highlights the growing danger of media consolidation in this country.'"
- Robert Cox, "Ted Koppel Excuses Wear Thin," The National Debate, April 30, 2004.
- Steve Gorman, "ABC Spars with Broadcast Group Over 'The Fallen'," Reuters, April 30, 2004: "Fighting back against a seven-city boycott of its "Nightline" roll call of U.S. war dead in Iraq, ABC News said on Friday it would make a special feed of its tribute available to radio and TV stations in markets where the program is being preempted."
- "Conan on Sinclair," The Hamster, May 1, 2004: "Conan O'Brien just aired a short skit criticizing Sinclair Media for not airing the Nightline episode. The announcer, Joel Goddard, read the names of some of the shows Sinclair media stations DID broadcast, including smutty Maury Povich and Jerry Springer episodes."
- Lynn Elber, "'Nightline' War Dead List Causes Uproar," AP, May 1, 2004.
- "Row over TV list of US Iraq dead," BBC/UK, May 1, 2004.
- "Controversy Rages as TV Show Lists U.S. War Dead," Reuters, May 1, 2004.
- Bill Carter, "Debate Over 'Nightline' Tribute to War Dead Grows, as McCain Weighs In," New York Times, May 1, 2004.
- Iraq Coalition Casualty Statistics
- military-mass media complex
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Year Two
- Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal
- transfer tubes
- Stop Sinclair Broadcasting
- Boycott Sinclair Broadcasting
- Boycott Sinclair Advertisers
- Sinclair Media Watch
- "U.S. Military Deaths in the Conquest of Iraq."
- "Iraq Body Count Data Base."
- "Quagmire in Iraq: U.S. Casualties Up To 11,700," Democracy Now!, April 2, 2004.
- Schema-root.org: Sinclair Broadcast Group - current news feed for Sinclair Broadcast Group