Affil WHNS to air special ‘Nightline’

Sinclair's ban prompts outcry on Capitol Hill

NEW YORK — A Fox Television affil in Greenville, N.C., will carry tonight’s tribute edition of ABC News’ “Nightline” after Sinclair Broadcasting announced it would boycott the broadcast.

Sinclair’s decision means that “Nightline” won’t be seen on its eight stations, including WLOS Greenville/Asheville and KDNL St. Louis. An ABC radio affil in St. Louis says it will broadcast the episode.

During the program, Ted Koppel will read the names of and show photographs of the 523 U.S. servicemen and women who have lost their lives in action in Iraq.

Sinclair, known for its right-wing approach to news and its substantial donations to the Republican party, accused Koppel of political subterfuge undermining the war effort.

ABC News said there was nothing political about the broadcast; rather, it is intended to pay tribute.

WHNS, the Fox affil in Greenville, approached ABC News Friday about airing the special edition, saying viewers should be provided the opportunity to watch. The ABC radio affil in St. Louis, KTRS, also approached the network.

Sinclair’s action prompted a swift outcry on Capitol Hill, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accusing the broadcaster of being “unpatriotic” and richly deserving of the public’s opprobrium.

“There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq,” McCain wrote in a letter sent Friday to Sinclair prexy-CEO David Smith.

“War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces,” McCain said.

Commending McCain’s comments, Common Cause called on its 300,000 members to blanket Smith with letters and calls protesting the preemption.

“Sinclair’s censorship is a taste of the chokehold on information that media giants are able to achieve,” Common Cause said.

Free Press, a national media reform org, announced Friday it would investigate whether Sinclair was violating FCC requirements for proper stewardship of the public airwaves. It said it would actively encourage citizens to challenge Sinclair’s commitment to localism and the public interest when license renewal hearings begin in September.

Sinclair’s other ABC affil stations are WSYX Columbus, Ohio; WGGB Springfield, Mass.; WTXL Tallahassee, Fla.; WEAR Pensacola, Fla.; WXLV Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C.; and WCHS Charleston, W.Va.

Free Press said licenses for Sinclair’s ABC affiliates in West Virginia and North Carolina come up for renewal later this year; affiliates in Ohio and Florida will follow in 2005.

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