ABC to honor soldiers

'Nightline' will name war victims

NEW YORK — ABC’s Ted Koppel will read the names of war dead from the past year on a Memorial Day broadcast of “Nightline,” in a reprise of a segment that won the show both criticism and praise last year.

It’s the third time Koppel has devoted part or all of a segment to honoring the war dead. “Nightline” provoked a wide range of reactions with its first two airings of “The Fallen” last year. The show devoted 40 minutes in April 2004 to reading 721 names of those killed in Iraq, and 10 minutes in May to reading 121 names of Afghanistan war dead.

This time Koppel will read both — 960 names as of Tuesday — which is expected to take 45 minutes.

“If it was important to do this last year, then it’s equally important to do it this year,” said “Nightline” executive producer Tom Bettag.

Last year, Sinclair Broadcasting Group pulled the show from its eight ABC affiliates, calling the segment a political statement. Conservative pundits spoke out against the show, including Armstrong Williams, at the time on the Bush administration payroll.

Arizona senator and former Vietnam POW John McCain vocally supported the segment.

ABC affiliates were informed of Koppel’s plans at a meeting in New York last week. The segment required approvals at the highest levels of ABC, both for the extra time and because most national advertisers will opt out of the show.

The net will run public service announcements and leave time for local advertisers who wish to place spots during the show.

So far, no affiliate has expressed misgivings about the segment, not even those owned by Sinclair, but it was unclear whether the group would air the show. A spokesman for Sinclair did not return a call for comment.