Pravda-esque Big Brotherism, or, Keep on Spinning in the Free World

Good news and bad news from the Land of the Free.

In the US, local TV stations are generally owned by large media companies. These companies are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It's akin to Carlton's ownership of Central TV in England, and the rules of behaviour that are set by the Independent Television Commission. So in Baltimore, for example, WBFF is the local Fox station. They are not owned by Fox, but by one of these larger conglomorates. Phew!

Anyway... one major TV company that owns stations all over the States is Sinclair Broadcast Group, based just up the road from us. In a move that has amazed even the most cynical, Sinclair ordered all their local stations to preempt primetime broadcasting this coming Friday to air parts of a documentary that even those on the right will admit is vehemently anti-Kerry.

Amazing! A partisan broadcaster (most of Sinclair's executives are Republican) is allowed to use the public airwaves to show a blatant piece of election propaganda. And they have the audacity to call it "news" (which is their excuse for being able to show it)! Now, I understand that the media has its biases, but network news - in the name of ethical journalism - should never, ever be conciously partisan. When Sinclair's chief Washington reporter spoke out about this outrage he was promptly fired. Nice.

So far the FCC has refused to do anything. That its chairman is Colin Powell's son is surely a coincidence.

I'm all for partisan documentaries. I watched and enjoyed Fahrenheit 9/11, but I'm not so stupid that I don't realise that it's lefty propaganda. And I would not support it being shown as news on network TV in the run-up to an election as tight as this.

I'm so incensed by this that I sent emails to all of Sinclair's advertisers requesting that they dissasociate themselves from this rubbish. I'm not even an American citizen, but I hate to see this kind of skulduggery going on in any country.

But the good news is that the market has done what legislators wouldn't. With its shares falling 17% and a major shareholder accusing Sinclair's executives of insider trading, the company has announced that it will only air part of the documentary. There's more of this story yet to be told, and I shall report back when I see the film for myself.