Media concentration strikes again! This time it’s Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Clear Channel of TV stations, which is pulling tonight’s edition of Nightline from its ABC affiliates because the entire program will be dedicated to a tribute to fallen U.S. troops in Iraq, wherein anchor Ted Koppel will be reading aloud the names of hundreds of dead American servicemen and women as their photographs are shown.
Now Koppel gets to know what it’s like to be a Dixie Chick, as Sinclair pulls a page from the Cumulus book — that’s the company that pulled all Dixie Chicks music from its stations last year after singer Natalie Maines criticized Bush on stage in London.
Although Sinclair’s action will deprive seven cities of the program, the censorship, per se, is not the real point.
Just like the Dixie Chicks probably didn’t lose any significant sales when their records were banned by radio stations, more people will be aware of this Nightline program and possibly tune in due to all the publicity, than who would otherwise.
Sinclair’s — and the Bush administration’s — objective is not to silence critics directly so much as to send the message that there will be swift retribution for crossing them. It may be that this is a test fire from Sinclair to see what kind of reaction comes against them for pulling Nightline, so they can see how much they can get away with in the future.
It’s important to note in this tiff with ABC and Nighline that Sinclair will have 3 more ABC stations in 2005, when the company’s Springfield, IL, Champaign, IL and Dayton, OH NBC stations switch affiliations. I reckon that Sinclair is eager to see how much leverage they can exert with ABC as it becomes one of the network’s largest affiliate owners (if not the largest). …