Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Local ownership? Not when it comes to the airwaves.

The most recent “Point” takes on the issue of “eminent domain,” arguing that the Supreme Court should rule in favor of residents of a Connecticut town who have appealed the seizure of their homes. Their city government has claimed it can take possession of their homes as part of a development project that will provide economic expansion and jobs for their financially strapped town.

Hyman argues that the government has a responsibility to protect the ownership rights of citizens. Believe it or not, we actually agree. Sure, Hyman couches his argument in terms that suggest the city officials are acting out of greed and doesn’t acknowledge that there might be a legitimate argument to be made that the financial good of the community outweighs the individual rights of a handful of homeowners, but the idea that government shouldn’t serve the interests of large corporations by allowing them to exploit what is owned by citizens is sound.

So, we’re just wondering: what does Mark think about the FCC allowing corporations to own multiple television stations in the same market and using the publicly-owned airwaves to spread political propaganda? Why should a Baltimore-based company have the right to force stations in North Carolina, Iowa, and California to show the self-interested diatribes of a corporate executive? If Hyman actually believes in valuing local citizens’ ownership rights over corporate interests, surely he and his pals at Sinclair would allow their stations to make local decisions about how to best use the publicly-owned airwaves to serve their audience, right?

Apparently not. As we noted yesterday, Sinclair has dropped any pretense to journalistic credibility by forcing every one of its 62 stations to air an anti-Kerry propaganda film in place of normal network programming. The fig leaf they use to attempt skirting federal election law is that the documentary is “news” and that they’ve invited John Kerry to participate in a panel discussion afterwards. Great—after showing nearly an hour-long defamatory film, the fair-minded folks will allow Kerry a matter of minutes to respond. How big of them.

Here’s a link to a Salon piece on this latest Sinclair tactic.

Fortunately, this episode may end up backfiring by exposing Sinclair even more completely as the propagandists that they are. There’s already a move by several Senators to file a complaint with the FEC and the FCC about Sinclair’s actions. The media is also covering the story, often pointing out as part of the story’s background that Sinclair executives donate large sums of money exclusively to Republicans. Even the online poll on Sinclair’s news website, newscentral.tv, shows that most of their own viewers think Sinclair should not run the film.

As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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