Is Koppel a Commie?

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, May 24, 2004 | Go to article overview

Is Koppel a Commie?


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


The Sinclair Broadcast Group, a Maryland-based media company whose holdings include sixty-two TV stations, did the country a favor when it refused to air the April 30 special edition of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names and showed the faces of the 721 US soldiers who had died in Iraq to that point. By insisting that Koppel, the most respected commercial broadcaster in America, was seeking to undermine the war effort, Sinclair demonstrated the dangers to democratic discourse of allowing too much media power to be concentrated in too few hands, and it revealed as laughable the equation between reporters' alleged liberal bias and the content of the news. Sinclair is owned by and for right-wingers. Its top executives contribute generously to conservative Republicans, and it instructs its stations to slant the news in their favor. If Sinclair is willing to censor Koppel merely for honoring America's war dead and for reminding Americans of this sacrifice, it hardly matters what the bias of any individual reporter employed by the company might be. When it comes to media ownership, money doesn't merely talk, as the bard of Hibbing sang, "it swears."

Even by the debased "with us or agin' us" standards of Bush-era punditocracy discourse, Sinclair stands out as an impressively dumbed-down operation. Like Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network, it shamelessly distorts the news and mocks those who would let reality interfere with its ideologically induced ignorance. Its centrally controlled content highlights the wit and wisdom of its corporate mouthpiece, Mark Hyman, who speaks of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" in France, a "hate-America crowd" in the media and "unpatriotic politicians who hate our military" in Congress. And while Sinclair refuses to broadcast the names and faces of America's dead soldiers-a refusal that Senator John McCain, former Vietnam prisoner of war, termed "misguided" and "unpatriotic"-it is more than happy to provide its viewers with propaganda "news" stories manufactured by the Bush Administration to fool the public. Sinclair has also sent Hyman and another "reporter" to Iraq to find the "good news" its corporate owners insist journalists are deliberately withholding from the nation.

Barry Faber, Sinclair vice president and general counsel, told the Washington Post that they had chosen to censor Nightline because they believed the program's "motivation is to focus attention solely on people who have died in the war in order to push public opinion toward the United States getting out of Iraq." Faber suggested that the reading of the names of the dead would "unduly influence people." Using the same bait-and-switch routine the Administration deployed to justify its unprovoked attack on Iraq, a Sinclair press release demanded to know why Koppel did not read "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." Well, the answer is, he did-on the first anniversary of 9/11-but don't bother Sinclair with facts. …

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